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Damned for Their

Difference: The Cultural


Construction of Deaf
People as Disabled:
A Sociological History

Jan Branson
Don Miller

Gallaudet University Press


Damned for Their Difference
Damned for Their
Difference: The Cultural
Construction of
Deaf People
as Disabled

A Sociological History

Jan Branson
and Don Miller

Gallaudet University Press


Washington, D.C.
Gallaudet University Press
Washington, D.C. 20002

2002 by Gallaudet University


All rights reserved. Published 2002
Printed in the United States of America

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Branson, Jan.
Damned for their difference : the cultural construction of deaf people as
disabled : a sociological history / Jan Branson
and Don Miller.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references.
ISBN 1-56368-121-8 (cloth : alk. paper)
1. Deaf. 2. DeafGreat Britain. I. Miller, Don. II. Title.
HV2380 .B685 2002
305.908162dc21
2001056888

The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of


American National Standard for Information SciencesPermanence
of Paper for Printed Library Materials,
ANSI Z39.481984.
For our granddaughter, Jemima Krishnayanti
and for Kylie, Nick, and Tiffany-Jane
Contents

Preface ix

Acknowledgments xix

PART ONE
The Cultural Construction of the Disabled:
A Historical Overview

Introduction 3

1 The Cosmological Tyranny of Science:


From the New Philosophy to Eugenics 13

2 The Domestication of Difference: The Classification,


Segregation, and Institutionalization of Unreason 36

PART TWO
The Cultural Construction of Deaf People as
Disabled: A Sociological History of Discrimination

Introduction 59

3 The New Philosophy, Sign Language, and the Search


for the Perfect Language in the Seventeenth Century 66

4 The Formalization of Deaf Education and the


Cultural Construction of the Deaf and
Deafness in the Eighteenth Century 91

5 The Great Confinement of Deaf People


through Education in the Nineteenth Century 121

vii
viii contents

6 The Alienation and Individuation of Deaf People:


Eugenics and Pure Oralism in the
Late-Nineteenth Century 148

7 Cages of ReasonBureaucratization and the Education


of Deaf People in the Twentieth Century:
Teacher Training, Therapy, and Technology 178

8 The Denial of Deafness in the Late-Twentieth


Century: The Surgical Violence of Medicine and
the Symbolic Violence of Mainstreaming 203

9 Ethno-Nationalism and Linguistic Imperialism:


The State and the Limits of Change in the
Battles for Human Rights for Deaf People 233

Appendix 255
The 1881 Survey of Methods Used in
British Schools for the Deaf

Bibliography 259

Index 289
Preface

Over the last decade, the public has been growing more aware of the fact
that deaf people have been discriminated against and that approaches
toward the nature and use of sign languages lie at the heart of these dis-
criminatory processes. The driving force in the cultivation of this grow-
ing awareness has been the rebirth of concepts of Deaf Culture, Deaf
Pride, and the Deaf Way among signing deaf people throughout the
Western world.1 National dictionaries of sign languages have been devel-
oped,2 sign languages have been included in school and university curric-
ula, departments of sign language studies and deaf studies have been set
up in universities, and the activities of the World Federation of the Deaf
have caught the attention and imagination of governments and the wider
public.
But little analysis has been done to determine why attitudes and be-
havior toward deaf people have been so discriminatory, why deaf people
have been robbed again and again of their pride in their own sensibilities
and languages. What analysis has been done has focused either on the
textual and visual imagery of prejudice and discriminationimages in
literature, the arts, and the cinemaor on somewhat narrowly focused
histories of deaf education. Neither the textual studies nor the histories
of deaf education place their analyses in their wider cultural, social, and
historical contexts. The textual studies, often pursued in the context of
cultural studies, fail to consider how these discriminatory texts about
deaf people relate to wider discriminatory discursive processes with re-
spect to ability, gender, race, ethnicity, or social class, and they rarely
place their analyses in an historical context. The histories of deaf educa-
tion similarly fail to place their histories in wider historical contexts to

ix
x preface

understand developments associated with the transformation of deaf


education in terms of wider pedagogical and philosophical movements.
In stark contrast to, for example, Foucaults histories of insane asylums,
medical clinics, prisons, and sexuality, these histories of deaf education
also do not consider their particular case studies of the history of deaf
education in relation to the wider conceptual transformations of the so-
cieties in which they are set.
We will explore the cultural construction of deaf people as dis-
abled, the construction and marginalization of deaf people as a minor-
ity group, in both its current and historical dimensions by exercising
what C. Wright Mills called a sociological imagination, which in-
volves the integrated study of social structure, history, and biography
(Mills 1970). We will place significant people and events in their wider
cultural contexts, proceeding through the book to examine the orienta-
tions toward and the treatment of deaf people, primarily in Britain, in
the context of

the new philosophy of the seventeenth century;


the scientific rationalism and the middle-class thirst for reason through edu-
cation in the eighteenth century;
the moral therapy and missionary zeal of the educators of the poor in the
first half of the nineteenth century;
the professionalism and bureaucratization coupled with imperialism, evolu-
tionism, and eugenicism that dominated the second half of the nine-
teenth century;
eugenicism and the increasing alliances among professionalization, medical-
ization, and bureaucracy through the wars of the first half of the twen-
tieth century;
the rebellious and even revolutionary moves against the restrictions im-
posed on individuality and creativity through the 1960s and 1970s;
the widespread deinstitutionalization through the 1980s; and
the multiculturalism as well as the assertion of ethnic rights and identities
through the 1990s.

The exploration of the concept of disability lays bare the contours


of our society because the construction of a pathological population is
at the core of the construction of every other persons normal subjec-
tivity, as they define, understand, justify, and console themselves in rela-
tion to this embodied other. All peoples evaluate, all categorize, but the
question we must ask is Why these categories in this society at this stage
Preface xi

of our history? Deafness, lameness, blindness, myopia, autism are only


labeled and signaled as disabilities if these conditions run counter to the
sensory and physical expectations and demands of the society. In a Deaf
community, a hearing person who cannot sign is disabled, handicapped.
In a hunter-gatherer society, a myopic person is intensely disabled, more
so than by deformity of limb, face, or speech. Depending on the society,
to be hairless or hairy, pale or dark, fat or thin might be an intense dis-
ability, a barrier to marriage or to effective membership within society.
Conditions categorized in our society as petit mal epilepsy, autism, and
blindness may be associated in another society with intense spirituality
and accepted as evidence of superiority. Appearances and behaviors are
interpreted within cultural contexts. The disabled are not a natural
but a cultural construction.
Although we concentrate on disabling processes in Western societies,
we do not want to insinuate that the maltreatment of people judged
disabled is peculiar to the West. The Dewa Agung, the supreme ruler, of
the kingdom of Gelgel in southern Bali in Indonesia, is described in 1597
as having a troupe of 50 misshapen dwarfs (their bodies deliberately de-
formed to resemble the grotesque figures of kris hilts) (Hanna 1976,
9).3 In a village in northwest India in 1968, a woman bemoaned the fact
that her father had married her to a simpleton because no dowry had
been required and so she could stay in the village and manage her fathers
house and land because he had no sons.4 In a neighboring ward of the
same village, a mother living in poverty despaired that she could never
get a wife for her simpleton son, a wife who could come and help in the
house, because no woman would marry him. In a village in southwest
Bali in 1979, children took delight in mocking and purposely confusing
the deaf brother of the household head. Unmarried because of his deaf-
ness, he could never become a whole person in the eyes of the village, and
he would never inherit land or property. And yet across the mountains in
north Bali, a hereditary deaf population live as an integral part of their
village, marrying freely and participating as full members of their village
through the use of a local sign language that is known and used by most
villagers, hearing and deaf (Branson, Miller, and Marsaja 1996). And in
villages throughout the north of Bali, hearing people readily use sign lan-
guages in their communication with deaf people (Branson, Miller, and
Marsaja 1999).
This book brings together the many and varied strands of our struggles
to understand, research, and teach about the puzzling process whereby
xii preface

some of our fellow citizens are classified as disabled and, thereby, are
marginalized and oppressed. Much of the material discussed derives
from our own primary ethnographic and archival research, particularly
though not solely in relation to the past and current treatment of deaf
people. In this book, we have given prime attention to historical
processes in Britain. Most studies of the treatment of deaf people and
of the development of deaf communities have concentrated on develop-
ments in America and France. The British situation has been summarily
dealt with and, in the process, seriously misrepresented.5 With respect to
British histories of the education of deaf people in Britain, Hodgsons
study (Hodgson 1953) provides excellent data for the first half of the
twentieth century but is ill informed with respect to earlier history.
McLoughlins later study simply repeats Hodgsons errors and then con-
tinues from where Hodgson left off with an account of later develop-
ments, thoroughly biased in favor of oralism. These misrepresentations,
in turn, have failed to appreciate Britains historical links with France
and America.
While writing this book, we have benefited from the recent sudden
flowering of studies dealing with disabilities and, particularly, with deaf
people. Baynton (1996), Davis (1995), Mirzoeff (1995), Harris (1995),
Wrigley (1996), Corker (1997), and Lane, Hoffmeister, and Bahan (1996)
all provide provocative analyses of the discursive construction of deaf-
ness. Mike Oliver (1996) has provided a succinct overview of his long-
term engagement with disability; Sander Gilman (1991a, 1991b, 1995)
has continued to provoke us to reveal and understand our deep-seated
prejudices in relation to normality and pathology, and Ingstad and Whyte
(1995) have provided access to what is the most coherent and sophisti-
cated set of studies on disability and culture yet available. Whyte (1995),
in particular, has opened to the Anglophone world a feast of non-English
language sources on the discursive construction of disabilities.
We are by no means the first sociologists or anthropologists to theo-
rize the cultural construction of disabling practices. Writers such as Ryan
and Thomas (1987), Busfield (1989), Tomlinson (1987), Littlewood and
Lipsedge (1989), Hirst and Woolley (1982), Fulcher (1989), Abberley
(1987), Oliver (1986, 1996), Robert Murphy (1987, 1995) and Ingstad
and Whyte (1995) all approach disabilities as culturally constructed and
seek to understand aspects of those cultural processes. Our own theoriz-
ing of these processes as they relate to people who are disabled dates
from the late 1980s (Branson, Miller, and Branson 1988; Branson and
Preface xiii

Miller 1989a). Many theorists, however, remain more or less bound


within the parameters set by the categories of our society or deal with
only a section of those deemed disabled. But not one of them provides a
sociological understanding that combines history and biography with the
study of social structures and processes.
Of importance in developing the analysis presented here has been our
contact with the work of sociolinguists dealing with the social, cultural,
and particularly the educational effect of discrimination against linguistic
minorities throughout the world. Above all, we have been influenced and
stimulated by the joint and individual work of Tove Skutnabb-Kangas
and Robert Phillipson on linguistic human rights, the right to bilingual
education, and linguistic imperialism.6

Who Are the Disabled?


As we turn to explore the cultural construction of the disabled, we
must clarify the term that is central to our enterprise. Who are the dis-
abled? The term the disabled must be understood as functioning on a
number of levels:

as a colloquial category that able-bodied people in particular assume is


embodied but that remains vague and undefinedan other;
as a collection of people who are defined as disabled by others for adminis-
trative purposes such as housing, education, income tax, and social serv-
ices;7 and
as a collection of people who consider themselves to be disabled and
thereby share a sense of identity with others who are similarly defined.

The disabled, therefore, are not a tangible and unproblematic collection


of people but, rather, a population that is assumed to exist, a category
into which able-bodied people can slot others who pose a threat to their
own normal view of the world and to those who inhabit it, and into
which those who identify themselves as disabled can welcome those
whom they see as suffering the same marginalization and oppression as
themselves. The issue of whether signing Deaf people are a linguistic mi-
nority or are disabled, for example, has generated intense debate within
both Deaf communities and among disability rights activists.8 The prob-
lem of identity as being either Deaf or disabled derives from the way a
disabled identity encompasses an individuals subjectivity in the same
way as gender or race. Seeking to move beyond this essentialist view of
xiv preface

identity, many Deaf people are seeking alliances with disability rights
movements to counter the essentialist view that people with disabilities
are inherently pathological.9 Those people who are actively involved in
the achievement of rights for people who are disabled refer to those who
bask in their own normality as TABstemporarily able-bodied.
What we are exploring is the discursive construction of a category
with shifting referents and shifting significance, a concept that demon-
strates par excellence that its meaning lies, in Derridas terms, in differ-
ance, in the establishment of meaning through the assertion of differ-
ence. No finite meaning is ever achieved, but meaning is constantly
deferred as people manipulate it for their own strategic ends. The mean-
ing of the disabled is elusive but dramatic, vague in its specificity, and
destructive in its application as this label is applied to others and as the
disabled are defined by difference, with the boundaries of their identity
deferred. It is a label that threatens us all but one that is assumed by the
majority of the population to be embodied in others.
This view of the discursive construction of meaningas being de-
pendent on the construction of difference but, at the same time, involving
constant negotiation in a way that no finite meaning is ever established
is central to the ways this book explores the cultural construction of the
disabled. To a very large extent, this study is, in the tradition of Fou-
caults studies of madness and medicine, a historical sociology of the de-
velopment of concepts and of their effect on social and cultural practice.
It is about the concepts that influence the way people orient themselves in
relation to themselves and others. The concept of sanity has no meaning
without the realization of its opposite, insanity. The concept of being
able-bodied is meaningless without the experience of its opposite, being
disabled. For the rational society to experience rationality, it must expe-
rience, embody, the irrational.
The texts through which these concepts are accessed and analyzed are
many and varied. Sometimes, they are conventional written texts, where
concepts such as sanity and normality are overtly used, but often, they
are the metatexts of human practice and of material culturepaintings,
sculpture, and architecture: the elaborate, grandiose architecture of sev-
enteenth- and eighteenth-century madhouses and nineteenth-century asy-
lums for deaf people; the sculptures that stood at the gates of Bedlam at
Moorfields in London; paintings and drawings of the mad or of the edu-
cation of deaf students; the sideshows at town fairs; the methods of treat-
ing madness or other conditions deemed pathological. These cultural
Preface xv

practices and products are all texts to be read, texts to be analyzed in


terms of the concepts central to the messages they conveyed to the people
of the time and in terms of the clues they give us about the way the dis-
cursive construction of discrimination and prejudice occurred.
In seeking to understand these processes, we focus on the social that
is in us all but that the hard-toned individualism of the West tends to
obscure. Despite the Wests devaluation and even denial of socialness,
our behavior can be collectively orchestrated without being the prod-
uct of the orchestrating action of a conductor (Bourdieu 1977b, 72).
What we do has more meaning than we know. And so we delve below
the threshold of consciousness to explore the unknown, the ignored, and
the usually unintended social and cultural consequences of everyday be-
havior.
The perspective through which we will interpret the interweaving of
history and biography does not focus exclusively on either structure or
the individual. Theories that concentrate simply on synchronic structure
fail to explain why and how certain sociocultural forms have developed.
Phenomenological theories that concentrate on an individually centered,
voluntaristic view of everyday life fail to appreciate the structural con-
texts and structuring effects of that behavior, particularly the uncon-
scious and, often, oppressive effects. Our focus is on the discourses
within which and through which we embody the concept of the disabled
in our society, on not only what we say and do but also the way we say
and do things.
In analyzing the effect over many centuries that changing ideas and
practices have on the disablement of people who are deaf, we must draw
eclectically on a range of theoretical approaches to the study of society
and culture. Social and cultural theorists, like the people they study, are
women and men of their times. Their theorizing is stimulated by the cul-
tural atmospheres in which they write and the social situations they seek
to understand, no matter how scientific they claim to be. Through our
combined historical, anthropological, sociological, and linguistic experi-
ence, we seek to provide a contribution to deaf studies. Deaf studies is
a multidisciplinary academic enterprise focusing on the development of
a coherent understanding of the myriad social and cultural processes
that have influenced and continue to influence the position and role of
people who are deaf both within and beyond our own society. Deaf
studies recognizes the effect of a Deaf identity on these processes. Like
womens studies and black studies, deaf studies contributes, on the one
xvi preface

hand, to exploring the way society has imposed an identityin this case,
deafwhich, thereby, has generated discrimination against the people
so labeled and, on the other hand, to promoting a sense of pride and po-
tential power in and through that identity, a Deaf identity. Like womens
studies and black studies, deaf studies also involves the development of
social theory that is adequate to and appropriate for the cross-cultural
analysis of the structuring and reproduction of inequalities and associ-
ated discriminatory processes.
All research, whether in medicine, engineering, architecture, philoso-
phy, anthropology, literary criticism, or veterinary science is oriented to-
ward the improvement of the quality of life for somebody or something.
So, too, is deaf studies. As we explore the history of the education of deaf
people or the cultural construction of people who are deaf as disabled,
we are exploring the history and current ethnology of being deaf. Ulti-
mately, we are exploring the historical, social, and cultural parameters of
Deaf communities. In the West, where communal identities and respon-
sibilities were sacrificed on the alter of capital accumulation, the effort
to reestablish a sense of community through the development of a tangi-
ble and valid history is, indeed, in the interests of improving the quality
of human lifeespecially among a people who for so long have been
damned for their difference.

Notes
1. For a discussion of these identity issues in relation to Britain, see Harris
(1995).
2. See Branson and Miller (1998a).
3. A kris is a short, elaborately decorated sacred sword.
4. The examples given for India and Bali were gathered by the authors during
fieldwork in Indian and Balinese villages.
5. Nowhere is this more apparent than in a recent discussion of the education
of people who were deaf in Britain during the seventeenth and eighteenth cen-
turies by Safford and Safford (1996, 3132). They heap scorn on the work and
writing of John Wallis and then of Henry Baker, basing their interpretation on
Bender (1960), which is entirely misinformed, and on Lane (1984), which, al-
though providing a very well-researched coverage of the history of deaf education
in France and then in America, is dismissive of the work of the British educators
without basing his conclusions on a careful analysis of the data. Safford and Saf-
ford even claim to use Laurent Clerc as their source on Wallis and then Baker,
again citing Lane (Safford and Safford 1996, 31 and 32), when, in fact, Lane sim-
ply uses Clerc as a figure through which to tell the history of deaf education.
Preface xvii

6. See in particular Skutnabb-Kangas and Phillipson (1994) and Phillipson


(1992).
7. For examples of formal definitions, see the UN Standard Rules on the
Equalization of Opportunities for Disabled Persons (www.independentliving
.org/STANDARDRULES/), and for further discussion of the terminology in such
definitions, see Mitchell and Snyder (1997).
8. Since the 1960s, many deaf people who identify themselves as deaf in a
culturally distinct way, especially those who see their use of sign language as
marking them off as a linguistic minority, have used the term Deaf with a cap-
ital D to indicate that they belong to a Deaf community. The term Deaf will be
used throughout the text where it is historically and culturally appropriate.
9. For discussion of these issues, see Ladd (1995), Woolley (1995), Finkel-
stein (1991), and Corker (1997).
Acknowledgments

Many people have helped us over the years as we have sought to under-
stand the cultural construction first of the disabled and then of deaf
people as disabled. Paddy Ladd first led us into the challenging field of
deaf studies. In Australia, our Deaf colleagues and students have been
vital to our effective engagement with Deaf issues. Particular mention
must be made of the late Graham Peters and of Jenny Toms and Brian
Bernal, colleagues in Australia who also accompanied us around the
world as we all sought to understand and contribute to the shape and pa-
rameters of Deaf history and of sign language studies. Our archival re-
search in Britain, especially our research into the history of the London
Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb in the Old Kent Road, benefited from the
knowledgeable guidance and friendly assistance of Peter Brown and Jack
Piggott. For her ongoing support in our seemingly neverending research
into the education in Britain of deaf people, we also extend our sincere
thanks to Mary Placket, librarian of the Library of the Royal National
Institute for the Deaf in London. Of particular importance in our re-
search into the education and treatment of deaf people through the ages,
both in Britain and throughout Europe, has been the cataloging and an-
notation of The Farrar Collection of Books on the Education of the Deaf
and Cognate Subjects in the John Rylands Library, Deansgate, in Man-
chester. We thank the staff of the John Rylands Library in Deansgate
who patiently helped us find our way through the Farrar Collection. In
particular, we would like to thank Anne Young, Alistair Cooper, Jean
Bostock, Ann Crowther-Doyle, and Sarah Lucas, who all became in-
trigued by the collection as it emerged from the depths of the library and
made the task both exciting and efficient. Dr. Peter McNiven gave our

xix
xx acknowledgments

project his full support. We would also like to thank the staff of the fol-
lowing institutions in London: The Family Records Centre, The British
Library, Somerset House, and the Geological Society. Our thanks goes
also to the staff members of the West Yorkshire Archive Service in Wake-
field, the Leeds Local History Unit in the Leeds Public Library, and the
Local History Service in the Manchester Public Library. A very special
thank you goes to the Reverend Malcolm Deakin, current minister of the
Doddridge Church, Castle Hill United Reformed Church, Northampton,
who not only gave us open access to the churchs papers, including those
of Thomas Arnold but also assisted us in tracking down the houses that
Farrar had lived in with Arnold in Northampton. None of the British re-
search would have been possible without family, without the generous
hospitality of our mother-in-law Joan Scoles as well as Gill and Jeff
Armishaw.
Our two months at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., in
1997 and, above all, the award of Powrie V. Doctor Chairs in Deaf Stud-
ies to us both in 1999 not only provided vital access to the Gallaudet
archives but also provided the ideal environment for the final rewriting
of the manuscript in 1999. We express our thanks to King and Linda
Jordan. The dean and staff of the Graduate School and Research were a
delight to work with and provided all the facilities we needed. We give
very special thanks to Sally Dunn. For their companionship, especially
during those Friday lunches, our thanks go to Michael Karchmer, David
Armstrong, and Vic Van Cleve, and, for treasured memories, Bill Stokoe.
Thanks, too, goes to Carol Erting and Joe Kinner. For their help in the
Gallaudet archives, we extend our thanks to Ulf Hedberg and Michael
Olsen. The librarian of the Volta Bureau in Washington, D.C., Judith
Anderson, also provided open access to valuable archives. The text has
benefited substantially from the comments on earlier drafts by press
readers. Finally, we express our sincere thanks to our editors, Vic Van
Cleve and Ivey Pittle Wallace, for their interest, their patience, and their
editorial skill.
We dedicate this book to our CODA grandchild Jemima Krishnayanti,
in the hope that she will eventually find in its pages inspiration to explore
the complexities of her multicultural, multilingual environment, growing
up as she is with two sign languages and one spoken language, and to
our three children, Kylie, Nick, and Tiffany-Jane, for making it possible
for us to spend so much time away from Huthnance Farm.
PART ONE

The Cultural Construction of


the Disabled: A Historical Overview
Introduction

Before we can understand the historically and culturally specific context


that underlies how people who are deaf are conceptualized and treated
as being disabled and before we can understand the violence, overt and
symbolic, that these views and actions have wreaked on those damned
by their difference, we must set the scene. We must understand how and
why the current Western view of the cosmos came to rely on the concep-
tual division of humanity into the normal and the pathological, the able-
bodied and the disabled. The cultural construction of the concept the
disabled did not occur overnight but was formed and transformed by the
peculiar cultural conditions associated with the gradual development of
capitalist democracies. A society that asserts, on the one hand, that all
people are born equal, that all individuals are equal before the law, and
that all individuals are free to access the boundless resources of their so-
ciety and yet, on the other hand, is characterized by enduring structured
inequalitiesof social class, gender, age, race, ethnicity, and abilityde-
mands very complex ideological practices to ensure that its citizens con-
tinue to have faith in progress and in those at the helm. The concept of
people who are disabled has been constructed as an integral part of that
ideological practice.
We seek to unearth the themes that underlie the bewildering varia-
tions of history, to discover the conceptual unity in the diversity of cul-
tural practice. Our historical overview, like the book as a whole, centers
on the historical transformation of British culture and society. But politi-
cians are the ones bound by the imagined community that is the nation,
not intellectuals or, indeed, those entrepreneurs who drove the world
headlong into modernity. Thus, attention will and must be drawn also to

3
4 a historical overview

developments across the English Channel and, later, across the seas into
colonies, the Empire, and the New World.
First, however, we must map the stage on which the actors in the
emerging battle of the sciences developed new cosmologies, new views of
the world and humanitys place in it. These new cosmologies emerged in
conjunction with dramatic changes in the way people not only thought
about one another but also interacted with one another. They are associ-
ated with the breakdown of societies based on communal identities and
communal needs and the emergence of individualistic societies focusing
on the accumulation of individual wealth.

The Feudal Community in the Middle Ages


Feudal society in Britain through the first half of the second millennium
was made up of communities based on personalized, face-to-face rela-
tionships.1 A persons identity was not individualized but bound to fam-
ily and community. The responsibilities of master for servant, whether
observed or neglected, whether kindly or ruthlessly exploitative, extended
across generations and involved far more than payment for immediate
services rendered. People were born no more equal than they are today,
but the inequalities were assumed inevitable, a normal aspect of society.
Without communal associations, a person had no socially sanctioned
identity, no honor. To be cast out of the community was a fate worse
than death itself. It was the death of self, condemnation to a terrifying in-
dividuality, expulsion beyond the boundary of the communitythe
town, the village, the fief, the monasteryinto the wilderness.
The feudal lord used the labor of those bound to him to produce tan-
gible products such as food, crafts, and military service. In return, he or
occasionally she was expected to provide for the basic personal needs of
those who served him or her, to provide housing, assistance with costs
for ceremonies associated with life-cycle rituals (birth, marriage, death)
and seasonal rituals (harvest, Christmas), and generally to provide sup-
port in time of crisis. Some lords were ruthless and cruel in the exercise
of their authority and neglectful in the fulfillment of their obligations,
but the general form of the relationship was recognized by all.
Although families were expected to care for kin whatever their condi-
tion, poverty was rife, and many families could not care for those who
were unproductive. The fate of people who were crippled, deaf, blind,
Introduction 5

deformed, mentally retarded, or mentally disturbed depended entirely on


the circumstances of their kin and of the community into which they
were born. Although a crippled weaver might continue as a full and pro-
ductive member of his or her family and community, a crippled farm la-
borer might be rendered destitute. Similarly, although in one situation
people who were deaf and mute might labor effectively in the fields or
engage in a wide range of other tasksweaving, blacksmithing, carpen-
trywhile communicating through signs, in other situations, their deaf-
ness and muteness might have resulted in rejection by the community, in
possible banishment to the mercy of the church.2
The use of monasteries and nunneries as depositories for unwanted
children was common.3 These unwanted children became oblates and
sometimes made up a large proportion of the monastery or convent com-
munity.4 Boswell records that 85 percent of the monks in one English
monastery between 1030 and 1070 had come to the monastery as
oblates (Boswell 1990, 297). Boswell also quotes Jerome (a fourth-
century monk and saint) as claiming that parents dedicate to virginity
those daughters who are deformed or defective in some way (24041)
and Ulrich of Cluny as stating in the eleventh century that parents com-
mit to monasteries any hump-backed, deformed, dull or unpromising
children they have (298).5 The presence of deaf children in monasteries
is occasionally referred to over the centuries, and in many monasteries,
especially those with silent orders, sign languages were used.6
Poverty rendered many people destitute, particularly those whose
physical, sensory, or mental conditions made them in any sense unpro-
ductive and a burden on their families. Many were forced to beg to sur-
vive and were not considered members of their communities. Records
from medieval times reveal occasional mention of deaf children begging
at the doors of monasteries and abbeys (Saint-Loup 1993, 380n). Much
of this medieval poverty was one of the terrible consequences of seem-
ingly constant warfare. Disbanded rabbles returning from wars that left
a ravaged countryside in their wake included lines on lines of those ren-
dered blind, deaf, deranged, and mutilated in battle.7
Communities were also linguistic communities. Today, we conceptual-
ize language as something apart from the individual and certainly be-
yond any individual community. We learn a language or we speak
and write a language as though the language had a separate existence,
something to be accessed. This abstract quality of language has been
6 a historical overview

generated by a wide range of factors but, above all, by the development


of widespread literacy, by the expression of language in tangible print on
which we are to reflect. But feudal agricultural communities were non-
literate communities in which language was a mode of action rather
than . . . a countersign of thought (Malinowski 1960, 296). People fo-
cused on ways of communicating.8 In these environments, we can sur-
mise that the use of signing often flourished when deaf people were pres-
ent, a natural aspect of the communicative process. Certainly, this
signing seems to have been the case in the Weald in Kent, at least, during
the seventeenth century and is the case in communities in Bali, Indonesia,
today.9 The linguistic needs of people who were deaf, therefore, were
often catered to as a natural aspect of the communitys localized culture
of communication.

The Breakdown of Feudalism and the Cultural


Construction of the Disabled and Impotent Poor
The fifteenth century was an era of uprisings. The bubonic plague of the
fourteenth century, or black death as it was known, had devastated
the population. Twenty-five million people died in Britain and Europe. In
the countryside and the towns, the whole productive system was thrown
into chaos. Political chaos followed. Church rebelled against church, the
state rebelled against the church, and the peasantry rebelled against
church and state. People were increasingly forced to look outward, be-
yond familiar communal environments, to survive. At the same time,
they were forced to look inward, to focus not on communal needs but on
those of the immediate family and household. As communities broke
down, so too did the processes whereby those who today are labeled dis-
abled were integrated into community lifethe adjustments to produc-
tive relations and processes as well as the use of communication forms
that were suited to the specific needs of community members. Less and
less were people members of coherent, long-term cultural and linguistic
communities.10
Many of those who had survived the plague flocked to the towns in
search of sustenance. The number of beggars on the streets increased
dramatically. Poor and out of work through no fault of their own, the
unemployed poor came to epitomize potential chaos. As early as 1359 in
London, those people able to labour and work, were distinguished
Introduction 7

from those many poor folks, such as lepers, blind, halt, and persons op-
pressed with old age and divers other maladies (Coulton 1919, 321). In
the desperate struggle to survive, to find work, the able-bodied poor
beggars had the advantage, driving the disabled further into poverty
and the mercy of church and state. Although those labeled disabled
had the right to beg, they were often displaced by able-bodied poor who
often mimicked disabilities to secure alms (see McCall 1979, 17778).11
Disability became synonymous with beggary, and beggary became syn-
onymous with failurefailure to be wholly human because human
worth was increasingly being associated with work.
The disabled poor were declared socially, economically, and politi-
cally impotent. The overt distinction between the able-bodied and the
impotent poor was constantly reinforced by a succession of poor laws
under the Tudors and early Stuarts (see Beier 1985, 9). Human worth
was defined in terms of ones commitment to worka sign of grace, a
sign of potency as a human being. In England, the poor laws of the
sixteenth century were designed specifically for the impotent poor, not
for the sturdy beggars. A 1626 handbook for justices of the peace
explains:

The person naturally disabled, either in wit or member, as an idiot, luna-


tic, blind, lame, etc., not being able to work . . . all these . . . are to be pro-
vided for by the overseers [of the poor] of necessary relief, and are to have
allowances proportional and according to the continuation and measure of
their maladies and needs. (quoted in MacDonald 1981, 6)

But the term disabled was still an adjective applied to a wide range of
people who, for myriad reasons, were unable to work. They were di-
verse. They were in no sense a single category of humanity, the dis-
abled.

The Need for Uniform, Able-Bodied


Labor Power and the Emergence of
Ideologies of Individualism and Equality
The merchants in the towns and the new entrepreneurial landowners
in the countryside shunned these complex and parochial obligations
and simply employed laborers to perform specific tasks, paying them
wages. They maintained no personal relationship. Here, beyond the old
8 a historical overview

face-to-face communities, the profit-oriented and alienating environ-


ments of the early manufactories favored uniform labor. Communication
idiosyncrasies also had no place. Uniformity of communication, like uni-
formity of physical competence, was demanded and required. Ways of
communicating became more uniform and less flexible. No long-term
obligations existed. People were forced to compete on the labor market
for work and, in the process, were considered individually responsible
for their own futures. The relationship was with the mill, the factory, or
the farm, not with the owner, and life outside the workplace was the in-
dividuals own affair.
Emergent capitalism demanded a new view of labor and of the labor
market, a view of the individual devoid of the kin-based and feudal re-
sponsibilities to share profits or to care for those who were not directly
productive. The individual person with a self-contained identity was be-
ing born. Associated with this new individualism was to emerge a con-
cept of equality. Individual rights and equality guaranteed before the
law were assumed to exist. Whether the individual was envisaged as
basically selfish and anarchic, as with Hobbes, or as rational, coopera-
tive, and oriented toward the protection of individual interests, as with
Locke, the individual man [became] the axiom, and society the deriva-
tive (Williams 1965, 94). Society and the community were freed of all
obligations. Individuals could henceforth bask in the glory of individual
achievement, denying that their privileged access to resources was by
virtue of their membership in socially and culturally privileged groups, or
they could suffer an asocial isolation and introverted guilt if they and
others decreed that they had failed. The glory or the fault was assumed
to lie with the individual.

The Transformation of the Family and the Increasing


Isolation and Marginalization of People Deemed Disabled

Family life was changing, and these changes affected the ability and even
willingness of parents to adjust to the needs and aspirations of those
children who were in some sense physically, sensorially, or behaviorally
different. The feudal family had been a unit of production, with all its
members recognized as part of the productive process. It was an ex-
tended family of more than two generations, linked through complex
ties of kinship, affinity, and community. The aged who were no longer
productive remained integral to its identity, and the frail, the simple,
Introduction 9

the crippled, the deformed, and the different were, where poverty or dis-
ease did not threaten the family, cared for and made productive. But as
trends changed, the concept of production began to involve the employ-
ment of labor power rather than people and denied any social responsi-
bilities beyond the immediate and even nuclear family.12
At the same time, the family was being defined as a female realm,
women being associated with all that was private, communal, caring,
and moral, whereas men, being seen as individuated and rationally cal-
culating, were identified with the public world. The large numbers of
women who were forced to work in the public world were defined as
temporary interlopers from the private realm and were paid less than
men. Extra, unproductive members of the family increasingly now
were seen as a burden. The only legitimate unproductive members were
those who would be productive in the futureable-bodied children. In
poor households where all workedmen, women, and childrenany
unproductive members could no longer be cared for. Because the site of
work had changed and the conditions of work were regimented and in-
dividuated, unproductive family members could not accompany others
to work, could not compete for work under the new laboring conditions,
and had no one to care for them at home.
But developments at home did not solely affect the gradual cultural
construction of the concept the disabled. Merchants and their sponsors
sought riches wherever they were to be found, and many were to be
found across the seas. As merchants voyaged out across the globe, they
first sought riches, then markets, and finally, new production sites. Cen-
turies of plundering the riches and indigenous industries of other coun-
tries eventually gave way to unequal competition with those industries.
The amounts pillaged were staggering, with, for example, the amount
plundered from India between 1750 and 1800 estimated at between
100,000,000 and 150,000,000 at a time when the British national in-
come was only 125,000,000 (Mandel 1968, 44344).13 The subjuga-
tion of these vast populations to imperial domination required not only
force of arms but also ideological legitimation. Imperialism, so vital an
ingredient in the development of the new democratic economies, would
affect heavily the views of humanity that were to construct and encom-
pass the concept of the disabled. The harsh exploitative realities of the
empire were, like those of capitalism at home, rationalized by means of
ideologies that twisted the facts into new, palatable shapes for the emerg-
ing middle classes.
10 a historical overview

From Hierarchy to Democracy


Although the decentralized polities of feudalism were initially replaced
with centralized monarchies, the economic and political turmoil that
accompanied the breakdown of feudalism combined with the need of the
new entrepreneurs to invest freely and individually threatened these hier-
archical states. Revolutionary movements erupted constantly as feudal-
ism crumbled. The divine monarchs lost their divinityand many, their
livesand, at best, returned as figureheads of national identity, no longer
the magnetic center of the nation. Democracy was being born.
In the emergent democracies, the legal system developed to guarantee
individual rights and equality before the law. First protected were the
individual rights of those men with property, and the equality of these
propertied males existed before the law. Gradually, the logic of egalitari-
anism was to incorporate more and more of democracys potential citi-
zenswomen, racial minorities, and people who were disabled. But
those moves were a long way off in the seventeenth century when the
English Revolution gave people a taste of their potentially democratic
future. Gradually, the law courts came to embody a legal order, ration-
ally administered by legal experts in the interests of individual justice and
social control. Eventually, political administration would also achieve
the ultimate depersonalization of decision making through the develop-
ment in the nineteenth century of government bureaucracies for the ra-
tional management of democracys citizens, including people who were
disabled.
The ideologies of egalitarianism and individualism that gradually
dominated hierarchical views of the world not only eventually gave rise
to universal suffrage but also generated the need for those in positions of
power and privilege to justify extant inequalities in a new way. Gradu-
ally, these ideologies created a distinctive form of inequality, discrimina-
tion, a legitimization of prejudice, in an environment where socially and
culturally sanctioned inequality had become inappropriate and unac-
ceptable. People were discriminated against as being equal but differ-
ent. Inequalities were justified according to differences of gender, race,
culture, and ability (see Dumont 1980, app.; 1986).
Now, a cosmology was needed that would allow an economy based
on rampant inequality to coexist effectively with a polity that increas-
ingly advocated individualism and equality not only before the law but
Introduction 11

also in the realization of a democratically chosen government. The new


high priests of Western societies, the scientists, would play a vital role.

The future beckoned urgently, and the promise it held out could only ad-
equately be gauged by the chaos that might result if the forces of progress
were not all combined in the task of bringing the new society into being. Of
those forces the most important were science, the men of science, and all
those who could see in the achievements of the scientific method . . . the key
to the future direction and organization of society. (Kumar 1978, 26)

Notes
1. Feudalism emerged in Britain and Europe sometime during the ninth cen-
tury and began to break down by the fifteenth century (see Anderson 1974). Feu-
dal societies were decentralized societies, with each town, village, monastery, or
fief being relatively autonomous economically and politically. They are charac-
terized as feudal because the dominant economic and political unit was the fief in
which a feudal lord ruled over a community bound by hereditary ties to serve
himto work his land, serve his household, and when required, provide military
service. The feudal lord in turn owed knight service to higher lords and, ulti-
mately, to a monarch. Villages of free peasants, the monasteries and nunneries,
and the merchant-led towns were relatively independent of these feudal lords. See
Merrington (1975) and Hilton (1973).
2. Childhood was much shorter than we define it today. Indeed, as a concept,
it did not exist because infancy was followed by adulthood. Death in the early
years was common, and by the time children reached the age of seven or eight
years, they were expected to have taken on adult roles in production and adult
responsibilities in family and community (see Aris 1962, 128 ff., 329 ff.).
3. Shown in research by both Boswell (1990) and Shahar (1990).
4. The term oblate comes from the Latin oblatio, meaning offering. Oblates
were children who lived in the monastery and were cared for by the monks. They
became part of the monastic community, serving the monks and in some cases
becoming monks themselves.
5. The Benedictine monastery of Cluny in France was recognized as the spir-
itual center of Western Christianity in the eleventh century.
6. See Banham (1991), Saint-Loup (1993), Lane (1984, 75) for the abbey of
Saint-Jean in France, and see Plann (1997) for Spanish monastic connections.
7. See McCall (1979) and Mollat (1986).
8. See Mhlhusler (1996).
9. See Groces history of the deaf emigrants from the Weald in Kent who set-
tled on Marthas Vineyard off the coast of Massachusetts in the seventeenth cen-
tury (Groce 1985). Also see Branson, Miller, and Marsaja (1996, 1999).
12 a historical overview

10. Processes were also at work that would lead to widespread literacy and
the associated standardization of languages. This trend would deal a heavy blow
to the development and use of those community-based ways of communicating
that catered to the specific needs of community members in all their difference,
including the use of signing with people who were deaf.
11. The giving of alms bestowed religious merit on the giver.
12. The family in modern Western societies is often represented ideologically
as a haven from the ruthless world of workas a personalized, lifelong institu-
tion that contrasts with the task-oriented, skill-based, depersonalized, insecure,
and temporary world of work. It is regarded as the realm of privacy in contrast
to the public world of work; the female and nurturing family is in contrast to the
male and ruthless labor market. In this way, the family is seen as disconnected
from the production process and often is represented also as a feudal survivor.
But the modern family is not a remnant from the past. It is integral to the effec-
tive operation of the economy. See Branson and Miller (1977), Kuhn and Wolpe
(1978), and Barrett and McIntosh (1982).
13. Note that the Western imperial expansion that accompanied and suc-
cored the development of capitalism had nothing to do with the spread of civi-
lization. It was not a case of contact between a progressive West and the stagnant
East: [T]he reason why Europe went to Asia, and not Asia to Europe, is that
Asia was more self-sufficient, and had little need, and but scant desire, for the
products of Europe (Caldwell 1977, 62).
1
The Cosmological Tyranny of Science:
From the New Philosophy to Eugenics

And new Philosophy calls all in doubt,


The element of fire is quite put out; . . .
Tis all in peeces, all cohaerance gone
John Donne, The First Anniversary

The Spectre, like a hoar-frost and a mildew,


rose over Albion,
Saying: I am God, O Sons of Men! I am your
Rational Power!
Am I not Bacon and Newton and Locke, who
teach Humility to Man
Who teach Doubt and Experiment?
William Blake, Jerusalem

For the people of Britain and western Europe in the fifteenth century,
life and its vagaries were mysterious. If answers to its mysteries were to
be found, they were to be found in the Scriptures, in the word of
God interpreted by His priesthood, or in other religiosities with heri-
tages lost in time. The world was God ordained. The community was a
religious community. Doctors sought to work within the mysteries of an
encompassing nature to promote healing; they were natures servants,

13
14 a historical overview

not her masters. And nature was fickle, sometimes kind, often cruel. Her
creatures were diverse and unpredictable, the monstrous always on the
margins of the known at the edge of the world, in the oceans, in lands
unknown, beyond the grave, in the mysteries of health and illness, and in
the mysteries of birth. Transformations of natures God-given differ-
ences, oddities, were assumed possible only through miracles, as is evi-
dent in the case of Anne of Jesus (A Sister of Notre Dame de Namur
1932), a child, deaf and mute, who suddenly through a miracle at the age
of seven in 1552 said Ave Maria and could speak and hear.

Religion and Science


Religion and science are fundamentally incompatible concepts today. Re-
ligion is seen as part of the private realm beyond the public worlds of
work and politics, an individuated orientation to the metaphysical, based
not in sensible proof but in faith. Science is conceptualized as part of the
public world, secular, sensible, based in rational expertise, the source of
a proven truth. But if we transcend these parochial concepts and exam-
ine the way they operate in society, the distinction becomes blurred, and
the religious character of scientism is revealed.
Berger has defined religion as the human enterprise by which a sa-
cred cosmos is established, adding that by sacred is meant . . . a qual-
ity of mysterious and awesome power (Berger 1969, 25). This myste-
rious and awesome power may be seen to lie in people of power, whose
peculiar qualities or training are believed to endow them with a power
beyond the reach of those ordinary mortals. The religious side of science
will be seen to emerge from the way it was viewed and acted on by
its congregation, the nonscientists who looked to the new science to
fill the gap left by the disestablishment of the church as the source of
knowledge. They developed a faith in the power of science and in the
efficacy of the knowledge of it practitioners, ensuring that the scientists
became the new high priests of the modern world, the effective ideo-
logues of society.
Religion involves the handing down of the sacred, of knowledge, of an
understanding, all of which is beyond the vagaries of everyday existence
but relates to it, establishing a cosmic order. In an effort to establish their
own order, medical scientists began to define the parameters of normal
humanity; the biologists, the shape, contents, and future of the natural
world. The logical processes and theories of science moved beyond the
The Cosmological Tyranny of Science 15

realm of scientific experimentation to become the epistemological and


cosmological foundations of society. The epistemological processes and
cosmological myths of science became so deeply ingrained in the collec-
tive consciousness, so deeply influential in the construction of subjectiv-
ities and the shaping of conventions and institutions, that they also
shaped the progress of science itself. The development of science was de-
termined by the epistemological and cosmological tyranny of the culture
of science.
The transformation of Western ideology toward faith in science came
about through radical religious changes, changes that turned the cosmos
upside down as humanity took control and as God was relegated to the
backseat in the shaping of humanity and its future. These changes were
made possible by the breakdown of monastic authority and the emer-
gence of radical clerics who paved the way for the Protestant Reforma-
tion, particularly Erasmus and his followers. They were inspired by intel-
lectual developments within and beyond the church that highlighted the
creative power of the human intellect and its ability to plan for the future
through rationality, emphasizing nature rather than grace, ethics rather
than theology and action rather than contemplation (Gilmore 1962,
2045). Religion was being individuated and intellectualized.
With the intellectualization and individuation of religion, religion be-
came something personal, inner and transcendentally oriented (Tam-
biah 1990, 4). In Calvinism in particular, the outward material and col-
lective aspects of religious behavior were robbed of any primary religious
significance. They became merely symbolic, evidence of an inner faith.
The Protestant ethic (see Weber 1985) stressed personal religious worth
expressed through individuated diligence in work rather than in the
communal performance of religious rituals. The individual mind became
the focus of religiosity, stressing the need of the faithful to think and
work religiously rather than to show diligence in the performance of
religiously charged actions. The church and its buildings, altars, para-
phernalia, rituals, and prayers were robbed of their power and mystery
as the focus shifted from group-based performance in which everyone in
all their diverse abilities could effectively take part to a personal, intellec-
tual commitment that demanded evidence of individual mental and oc-
cupational ability. The Divine was relegated to some vague and impen-
etrable heaven, somewhere up in the skies. Man and man alone was the
standard by which all things were measured. He was his own raison
dtre (Hazard 1973, 9).
16 a historical overview

As monarchs and republics rose and fell and rose again, those in
power sought legitimacy for their power and their privilege. They en-
gaged in the active promotion of those cosmologies that favored them.
They looked to the wise men of their day to serve as ideologues, promot-
ing some and rejecting others. We turn first to the work of these wise
men.

The Battle of the Sciences and the


Emergence of the New Philosophy
The roots of the epistemic violence that has been exercised to create and
discriminate against the disabled lie in the radical transformation of
Western cosmology from the fifteenth century, a cosmological and episte-
mological transformation associated with the triumph of a mechanistic
science over its spiritualist opponents. A mode of thought and practice
emerged to transform not only the world around us but also the con-
sciousness of Western humanity.
In many accounts, the scientific and philosophical revolution is pic-
tured as emanating directly and solely from scientists and philosophers.
They are depicted as changing the view of the world, as establishing new
epistemologies, cosmologies, ideologies: the Cartesian worldview, the
Newtonian universe. But scientists and philosophers were, in fact, ex-
pressing in a particular way what others were expressing in different
ways, some in words, others in actions. The poets, dramatists, novelists,
and painters were not simply reflecting philosophical changes. They did
not follow the philosophers lead. The age was one of revolution, and the
philosophers were only part of it, an important part insofar as their work
was seized on by members of the establishment to rationalize their status
and preserve their wealth and power. The fact that Copernicus was fa-
vored rather than Paracelsus and that Bacon was favored rather than
Fludd expresses the way those in positions of power evaluated the effect
that these philosophers would have on their authority. If anything, the
academics were at the end of the chain of changes that shook Europe
from at least the fifteenth century.
Many of these intellectuals were condemned as heretics, by no means
the ideologues for their own time. They were to lay the ground for new
legitimization of the establishment, for a new dominant cosmology, in-
deed, for a new common sensein later times. Scientism, an ideological
interpretation of the writings of the scientists, not just science, would
The Cosmological Tyranny of Science 17

become the new common sense that would reign hegemonic over peo-
ples minds and practices.
By the middle of the sixteenth century, Copernicus (14731543) had
hypothesized that the earth was not the center of the universe but
merely one of many planets circling a minor star at the edge of the
galaxy, [thus robbing] . . . man . . . of his proud position as the central
figure of Gods creation (Capra 1983, 38). Sixty years later, Kepler
(15711630) and Galileo (15641642) were proving Copernicuss thesis
correct by means of new technology, the telescope, and the mysteries
of mathematics. Kepler sought the harmony of the spheres whereas
Galileo advocated the study of the cosmos by means of mathematical
measurement, by studying those aspects of nature that could be meas-
ured and quantified. Galileos cosmology was expressed through a new
language, a sensible language, a language that dealt with only shapes,
numbers, and observable movement. Subjective mental projections
were excluded, those now being in the realm of metaphysics. And while
Galileo experimented, Francis Bacon (15611625), passionately set forth
the scientific, inductive method, portraying it as a means by which nature
could be controlled, harnessed to the services of an explicitly patriarchal
society to generate progress.
This conviction that nature could be mastered, that humanity could
be transformed through science, made the Royal Society the perfect base
from which philosopher scientists were to begin a long engagement with
people who were deaf and with sign languages. Their involvement cata-
pulted deaf people into the philosophical limelight, forming and trans-
forming their identities in the minds of the educated establishment as
well as constructing a unitary category, the deaf, about which to be
theorized and on which to be experimented. But why did one sort of sci-
ence triumph to condemn its rivals to the realms of art and the occult?
From the beginning of the battle between mechanistic science and the
nonmechanistic sciences, the nonmechanistic sciences were the ones that
were most radical, that rebelled against the establishment. The most im-
pressive example of such radicalism was the Swiss physician Paracelsus
(1493?1541), a man well in advance of his contemporaries, particularly
in his understanding of medicine and especially in the use of chemically
based medicines. As far as many of his contemporaries were concerned,
he worked miracles, but he never claimed to do more than help nature
to work effectively. He rebelled against the academic conventions of
his time, catering to no one, criticizing his contemporaries, constantly
18 a historical overview

rocking the boat, and being denounced by the establishment. He sup-


ported the peasants in their struggles and asserted that science must be
for the people and of the people: Convinced that science must learn
from the people and work for the people, he wrote in the vernacular
(Pachter 1951, 200). His cosmos was organic, a macrocosm to the mi-
crocosm of the individual.
But mechanistic science triumphed. The establishment of the science
of Copernicus, Galileo, and Newton as the official scientific method was
overtly political, the result of overt patronage by the establishment, in
particular, the founding of the Royal Society of London after the restora-
tion of the monarchy in 1660. Truth did not win out, the new did not su-
persede the old, nor did the modern replace the traditional. The power of
the monarchy not only ensured the new scientific authority of the Royal
Society but also protected it from what were seen as more radical and po-
litically dangerous approaches to science such as those taken by Paracel-
sian iatrochemists and hermeticists like Fludd (Redner 1987, 45).
The new science thus banished its more radical opponents to the
realms of poetry and the occult. Blakes Eden was a cosmos that was
understood in terms of alternative sciences, the nature of Paracelsus. It
was reflected later in the scientific writings of, for example, Goethe
(17491832) and then Steiner (18611925), which saw the individual
not as a unitary subject but as expressive of diverse qualities and rhythms
in the natural world of sensitive chaosof fluxqualities and rhythms
that were not ordered and governed by laws but that were constantly
forming and transforming in chaos and in harmony. The world of these
banished scientists was a world in stark contrast to what Goethe called
the empirico-mechanico-dogmatic torture chamber (Uberoi 1978) that
was modern science.
Descartes (15961650) was the intellectual catalyst of his age. He
pushed in one particular direction the contradictions inherent in the es-
tablishment view, in the dominant ideology. It was not the only direction
that could be taken. Other radical points of view existed. But the human-
centered, mathematically based theories of Descartes appealed to those
excited by the prospect of humanitys control over its own destiny, a
humanity dependent on neither God nor the church. Descartess faith in
disembodied human reason was accompanied by an acute contempt for
culture, which he called custom and example and considered to be the
source of all error. The human mind was so made as to ensure that, on its
own, it would find the truth (Gellner 1998, 43). He did not reject God
The Cosmological Tyranny of Science 19

but transformed the relationship between man and his God. More than
anything else, the claims to rationality, to methods that removed the the-
ories from the realm of subjectivity and from humanity itself, created an
independence from God, the church, and the individual scientist. The
scientific method replaced God as the ultimate source of all knowledge,
as the source beyond humanity.
By the seventeenth century, science was firmly capturing the educated
publics imagination. Familiarity with astronomy, mathematics, and the
philosophy of language were the marks of the gentleman. The wealthy
and educated, at least, could focus on a new religion and a new priest-
hood in their everyday lives. Science was becoming an idol, an object of
worship. It looked as if Science were going to . . . supersede Religion, and
that it would supply the answer to all the longings of the human heart
(Hazard 1973, 363).

The Royal Society and the


Legitimization of Rational Progress
The popularization of science and the enhancement of scientism moved
on apace in Britain as John Wilkins (16131672), referred to by one of
his juniors at Oxford University as the greatest curioso of his time
(Wood 1813, xxxi), continued Bacons mission, enlisting the Kings pa-
tronage of science. Wilkins was the key player in the establishment of the
Royal Society in 1663. While a chaplain in London in the 1640s, he
along with John Wallis (16161703) and others had been active mem-
bers of Robert Boyles (16271691) philosophical college, also called
the invisible college, the predecessor of the Royal Society.1 Wilkins
moved to Oxford as Warden of Wadham College in 1648, a year before
Wallis. Meetings of the invisible college were held in his rooms at Wad-
ham and included Christopher Wren, Robert Boyle, John Wallis, and
later, a young John Locke (16321704).2 Wilkins cultivated an environ-
mentreligious, political, and intellectualthat was conducive to the ef-
fective work of Newton (16421727) and those who followed.
To claim as Capra does that the man who realized the Cartesian
dream and completed the Scientific Revolution was Isaac Newton
(Capra 1983, 48) is something of an overstatement and certainly is
not the product of a sociological imagination. The spread of science
took some time, and the hegemonic saturation of the public conscious-
ness by scientism a little longer. Also, great scientist that he was, Newton
20 a historical overview

Through Britains Royal Society, philosopher scientists, like


John Wallis and Robert Boyle, gained patronage and publicity
for research on the nature of humanity, which catapulted deaf
people into the philosophical limelight.

was also, albeit in secret, an astrologerindeed, called by his latest


biographer the last sorcerer (White 1997). His faith in the new science
and the new philosophy was not nearly as complete as the faith of his
followers. Nevertheless, Newton laid the ground for the realization of
the fruits of science, provided for the translation of the new philosophy
into the new technology, and provided for the widespread experience of
the wonders of science, substantiating the faith in progressscientific
progress so essential to the emerging middle classes and their capitalist
economy. Inspired by Descartes, Newton provided a blueprint for the
industrial revolution. Inspired by Newton and by Hobbes (15881679),
Locke was to lay the basis for a transformed academy as scientism
reached into every pore of academic life.
With the founding of the Royal Society, the monarch became the pa-
tron of progress, not its victim, and, in the process, became of necessity
not only the patron of the production of reason but also the patron of
The Cosmological Tyranny of Science 21

those institutions that sprang up to contain its opposite, unreason. As


humanitys rational future became a possibility and the concomitant fear
of chaos developed, madness, in particular, was seen as menacing, a
great disquiet, suddenly dawning on the horizon of European culture at
the end of the Middle Ages (Foucault 1973, 13). If reason was the
source of all that was good, all that was creative, all that was progress,
then its opposite had to be identified and emptied of its worth. Unreason
became the great fear, the great danger.
After the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, Bethlehem Hospital, or
Bedlam as it was and is more commonly known, the archetypal mad-
house, became Bethlehem Royal Hospital. In 16751676, the hospital
moved to a new building, designed by Robert Hooke in Moorfields,
which challenged the Tuileries in Paris for beauty and grandeur. At the
entrance were Cibbers famous statues of madness and melancholy. A
forceful visual statement was being made to affect all who passed by.
Here, indeed, was a metatext, a statement with far more effect than any
written document, a text integral to the discursive construction of the
disabled. The king was protecting his subjects from the feared chaos of
unreason.
The particular vision of chaos that science spawned eventually would
create and thereby control the disabled. It would do so by lumping
together as one category of humanity all those physical, sensory, and
behavioral qualities that had formerly been regarded and dealt with sep-
arately. Why?

From Flux to Chaos: The Creation of Disorder


Although the science of Paracelsus and of his followers through the ages
saw nature as a sensitive chaos to be understood and worked with,
mechanistic, unitary science interpreted the existing cosmological flux as
disorder, a disorderly and chaotic realm to be subdued and controlled
(Merchant 1980, 127). To quote Foucault, a great threat . . . dawned on
the horizon of the fifteenth century (Foucault 1973, 35), the threat of
unreason. Where once the mysteries of madness and healing had been ac-
cepted as part of natures diversity, they now became a threat to be sub-
dued. Society at large concentrated on the control of the witch: Disor-
derly woman, like chaotic nature, needed to be controlled (Merchant
1980, 127). But not just womenany adult or child who suffered from
fits, from lack of comprehension or, indeed, whose behavior was seen as
22 a historical overview

unusual was in danger of being assumed to be possessed by or in league


with the devil and subject to trial and execution (Safford and Safford
1996, 20). Physical, mental, or behavioral disorders were condemned.
Bacon asserted the need to control nature through the new science.
Hobbes and Locke rationalized the need to create a rational society, the
need to control people. Humanity itself would be defined in terms of
those whose physical and behavioral qualities were ordered. Therefore,
those whose physical or behavioral qualities were diagnosed as disor-
dered were seen to be in need not only of ordering, where possible, but
also of containment, of control to protect the wider population. Control
over disorder, human and natural, was to be achieved through human
knowledge and technology.

The fundamental social and intellectual problem for the seventeenth cen-
tury was the problem of order. The perception of disorder, so important
to the Baconian doctrine of dominion over nature, was also crucial to the
rise of mechanism as a rational antidote to the disintegration of the organic
cosmos. . . . Rational control over nature, society, and the self was achieved
by redefining reality itself through the new machine metaphor. (Merchant
1980, 19293)

So science penetrated everyday life not only as fashionable conversa-


tion among the establishment but also through the scientific experts as
they became the theologians serving the interests of those in positions
of economic and political power. Order and chaos were the dyad that set
the parameters for academic debate about the natural world, about the
world of conquered and different populations, about society at home,
and about the self, the individual.

The Ordering of Nature and Humanity


The order of nature and humanity thus was threatened above all by
those aspects seen as anomalous, the untidy aspects that did not conform
to the emerging cosmology that defined the nature of the world, the na-
ture of humanity, and the nature of humanitys place and purpose in that
world. In the pursuit of order, the new scientists were classifying nature.
Plants, animals, humans, and minerals were all being arranged in an or-
dered fashion. Each species of plant or animal was defined in terms of
observed and documented characteristics, as were human beings. The
senses of each species, their physical qualities, and eventually their be-
haviors were all classified to demonstrate the order of nature. Those that
The Cosmological Tyranny of Science 23

did not conform to these classificatory schemes were seen not as chal-
lenges to the reliability of the classificatory schemes of the new scientists
but as anomalies that needed to be changed and, if not changed, then
contained so their chaotic qualities would not spread.
At the same time, scientists were concerned with clarifying what they
saw as a fundamental division between the human and nonhuman. Hu-
manity alone was seen as possessing the intellectual power to understand
and change the world. Therefore, this fundamental divide needed to be
explained and thereby consolidated. Any threats to the distinctiveness of
humanity were threats to progress.

In early modern England the official concept of the animal was a nega-
tive one, helping to define, by contrast, what was supposedly distinctive and
admirable about the human species. By embodying the antithesis of all that
was valued and esteemed, the idea of the brute was as indispensable a prop
to established human values as were the equally unrealistic notions held by
contemporaries about witches or Papists. . . . The brute creation provided
the most readily-available point of reference for the continuous process of
human self-definition. Neither the same as humans, nor wholly dissimilar,
the animals offered an almost inexhaustible fund of symbolic meaning.
(Thomas 1983, 40)

The eventual marginalization of certain human differences by labeling


them as pathological and, thus, as less than or other than human was di-
rectly tied to the marginalization of other nonhuman beings. As zoos de-
veloped, so too did the display of the human others in fairs, market-
places, and hospitals for the insane such as Bedlam. As writers like
Thomas (1983) and Berman (1990) have shown, the mechanization of
the natural world involved a separation of humans from the animal
world. Animals became the antithesis of humanity. In Descartess terms,
animals were mere automata, devoid of feeling; their cries, mere noise,
not responses to the feeling or emotions that humans experienced. The
increasing marginalization of the animal world from the world of hu-
mans and the classification of animals as wild or tame was a funda-
mental aspect of the changing definitions of humanity that generated the
concept of the disabled during the eighteenth and nineteenth cen-
turies.
The concept of the brute that encompassed the animal world, di-
vesting that world of feeling and of all that was valued as human also en-
compassed the part of the human species that did not live up to accepted
measures of humanity. Animals could be oppressed and maltreated. The
24 a historical overview

oppressed and maltreated of the human species were equated with ani-
mals to legitimate the acts of their oppressors: Their dehumanization
was a necessary precondition of their maltreatment (Berman 1990).
The colonized, the enslaved, manual workers, and womeneven chil-
drenwere all accorded degrees of animality and the most beastlike
of all were those on the margins of human society: the mad . . . and the
vagrants (Thomas 1983, 44). They were not just beastlike. They were
feared because their differencesphysical, behavioral, or bothwere in-
terpreted as violating the division between the categories of animal and
human. They did not fit into the binary schemes that increasingly domi-
nated Western cosmology. Like the monsters of myth, they were not only
brutish but also monstrous, demanding not only inhuman treatment but
also exorcism. Once the exorcism of the church had been denied, the
new priests, the priests of science, were called on to provide both protec-
tion and treatment. Science drove the monsters away, claiming they were
irrational, and industrial society created distinctly human territory as
they banished the animals from town and home. Those humans deemed
brutish, monstrous, or both were hidden from viewout of sight and
out of mind. Those humans who did not conform to what was in sci-
ences classificatory schemes, to what would later be defined as nor-
mal, were being lumped together as being pathological, as deviating
from what classifiers of nature defined as normal and therefore accept-
ableas deviating from humanity.
Particularly threatening and, at the same time, of prime scientific in-
terest were those humans who were seen to bridge the gap between the
human and animal worlds, the wolf children, or children reared by an-
imals. As we shall see in later chapters, the institutionalization and treat-
ment of the wild boy of Aveyron consolidated the image of a person
who was deaf and mute as being natural rather than cultural, as being
closer to the animal than to the human.

Language as the Definiens of Humanity


The link between language and humanity played a vital part in the mar-
ginalization of people who were deaf because language above all was
seen to separate the human from the animal (see chapter 3). Descartess
view of animals as mere automata stressed the uniqueness of the
human mind. The Cartesian mind was anything but a mere brain. Ani-
mals, too, had brains. The mind was disembodied, metaphysical, and
The Cosmological Tyranny of Science 25

even mysterious. The mind expressed itself through the equally uniquely
human facility of language.
Although debates would rage through the rest of the millennium
about the nature of language, the dominant view was that language de-
rived only from the faculty of speech.3 Those without speech, thus, were
labeled frequently as mindless, as less than human. Those who were
deaf were assumed to be incapable of learning language, incapable of
human understanding.
The particular disabling effects of being identified as a deaf mute
were influenced not only by Cartesian theories of the duality of mind and
body that were linked to the binary opposition of the human and the an-
imal but also by the sense-based philosophical traditions that emanated
from Locke in the late-seventeenth century. Through Locke, the five
senses came to dominate not only the conceptualization of human nature
and human ability but also the conceptualization of society itself and of
the place that those who were judged sensible or in some way sense-
less should occupy in society.

Human Nature; the Five Senses;


and the Rational, Sensible Society
Humanity was being defined, or controlled, in scientific terms as was the
wider society. Hobbes and Locke, in particular, developed scientific views
of human nature and society that would exert a strong influence on the
classification and treatment of human difference. For Locke, all individ-
uals were born equal. As tabulae rasae, or clean slates, at birth, all
human minds were equally lacking in subjectivity and destiny. Individual
qualities were bestowed through the experience of the world by means
of the five senses, through the agency of society operating according to
natural laws. For Hobbes, the individual was inherently selfish and
anarchic, in contrast to Lockes view of the inherently social, inherently
cooperative individual. Hobbes stressed the importance of the establish-
ment and maintenance of a law-governed order to avoid the chaos that
might result if society were not subjected to social control. In Lockes
view as in Hobbess, all knowledge was gained through sensory percep-
tion in a sensible world that was empirically verifiable, thoroughly
knowable, and dependent on rational, scientific research.
These images of an ordered, law-governed society, especially when
coupled with the Hobbesian image of impending anarchy, reinforced the
26 a historical overview

role of the democratic state as the representative guardian of rational


control. Lockes theorizing reflected fundamental transformations in the
view of the individual that were to become more and more widespread
and basic to the emergent meritocratic democracies. The place of hu-
manity in the cosmos and the view of the individual were thus being
redefined.4
These definitions of modern man based in sensible views of the indi-
vidual went some way toward providing a cosmos that was conducive to
the progressive development of an individuated labor market and toward
rationalizing differential wealth in terms of individual merit and individ-
ual ability. But these definitions could not rationalize the differences as-
sociated with the economys prime source of capital, empire. An imperial
consciousness demanded a different view of the individual, a view linked
to biological and cultural difference. Evolutionism filled the gap, a vital
ideological force not only abroad but also at home.

Evolutionism: Difference as Inferiority


The abiding fascination of the nineteenth century was with evolution,
with the discovery of explanations for biological differences that were
the consequence of natural laws rather than the work of God. Geology,
archaeology, and biology combined to seek out the riddles of difference,
the past increasingly populated by primitive, less progressive forms of
animals and humans. So involved was the middle-class popular imagi-
nation with these speculations that when Charles Darwins The Origin of
the Species was published in 1859, it was a best-seller. Here was not only
a scientific work but also a scientific theory of biological progress, inter-
preted to rationalize the supremacy of humanity over other animals and
the supremacy of contemporary humanity over past forms. The excite-
ment was echoed over and over in popular fiction, the prime example
being Jules Vernes Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864), which
took the reader on a voyage through the living geology of evolution.
But the theories soon turned to explain the supremacy not only of
contemporary humanity over past forms but also of certain contempo-
rary humans over other contemporary humans. As far as the social
scientists were concerned, they had discovered, in the new world, the
living stone age. Evolutionism became an explanation for the con-
temporary supremacy of particular human specimens over othersof
the civilized over the uncivilized or primitive, the scientific over the su-
perstitious, the industrious capitalist over the indolent peasant or lazy
The Cosmological Tyranny of Science 27

native. According the social scientists, not only was man evolving but
also society was evolving, and some societies were more evolved than
others.
Darwin wrote, If the misery of our poor be caused not by the laws of
nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin (Gould 1984, title page).
But Darwins writing fed into an evolutionist environment and rein-
forced the existing ideological commitment of the middle classes to legit-
imize inequalities in terms of biological determinism. Their domination
of those in the colonies, of the working classes, of women, and of the
disabled were all legitimized by means of Social Darwinism.
Thus, the peoples who were contacted and were ruled in the colonies
were classified and theorized about as well as formed and transformed
by the discourses of Western science. They were classified into races, na-
tions, tribes, clans, and lineages and were evaluated in scientific terms.
Colonialism became the harbinger of progress, bringing rational civiliza-
tion to the rest of the world. When the Western colonists entered those
other worlds and sought to build effective political and ideological bases
for the pursuit of the all-important economic activities that were the
lifeblood of empire, they did so as rational administrators whose impe-
rial right was seen to lie in their having entered the scientific age. Their
cosmos was a cosmos devoid of any mysteries other than the wonders
of science. Their lack of neutrality remained hidden beneath the facade
of reason, of scientific rationality. Firmly held by the hegemony of scien-
tific rationality, Western academics unwittingly engaged in epistemic vio-
lence. They became complicit in presenting to the world at large views
of the colonized populations as being variations of the other against
which the colonizers rationalized their imperialism.
Standards of humanity, of progress, and of desirability were all meas-
ured from the West. Fifteenth-, sixteenth-, and seventeenth-century re-
ports of a New World populated by monsters akin to those of Euro-
pean myth and legend gave way to reports of a living stone age inhabited
by genetically inferior beings living in less-developed, less-evolved, irra-
tional sociocultural environments that were ruled by superstition. The
less-than-human, the less-evolved, were out there, under the control of
empire by means of rational administration to ensure the spread of sci-
entific civilization and the destruction of irrational ways of life. The early
images of monstrous humans with two heads or headless creatures with
eyes in the middle of their stomachs or beings with beaks instead of
mouths signaled the birth of racism as others were represented not only
as different but also as pathological and, therefore, as inferior.
28 a historical overview

Thus, the West not only rationalized its colonial intervention but also
provided itself with constant ideological justification for its own superi-
ority by conducting scientific evaluations of these other races and other
cultures. As Jahoda has so cogently and dramatically shown, the roots of
modern prejudice lie in the overtly arrogant Western images of these col-
onized savages (Jahoda 1999).
Discourses about disease rather than the actual spread of the diseases
supported the colonial process. During the Middle Ages, the label lep-
rosy marginalized unwanted elements of society and drove them be-
yond the pale.5 In a similar fashion, the colonized territories were repre-
sented as the sites of plague and pestilence, where diseases long since
controlled in the West were rampant, particularly leprosy. The presence
of these diseases reinforced the image of the colony as backward and the
image of its population as physically or genetically inferior and prone to
disease. We do not mean that the diseases did not exist or that Western
medicine did not come to play an important part in their control and
even their eradication, but their existence was exaggerated out of all pro-
portion, and the image engulfed entire continents (see Watts 1997).
Ultimately, the oddities of the new world were paraded alongside the
oddities at home. The sideshows that blossomed in Victorian society and
on into the first half of the twentieth century were peopled with freaks
from the West and the colonies. The Kalahari Bushman took his place
alongside the dwarf, the giant, the limbless, and the Siamese twins. Their
combination was a vital ideological practice in the imperialist construc-
tion of the disabled (see Bogdan 1988). Evolutionism provided the
British upper and middle classes not only with a legitimacy for their own
imperial domination of the colonial world but also with the rationale for
seeking out and controlling people who threatened their evolutionary su-
periority at home. Those people who were classified as abnormal physi-
cally, mentally, behaviorally, or sensorially were evaluated in evolution-
ary terms. Head shapes, posture, skin color, and language use were noted
and evaluated. Thus, the sign languages of deaf people were no longer
evaluated as the basis for a potential perfect universal language but
became identified with the sign languages of savages and with the
early evolution of language.6 The goal of therapists and educators at
home became the same as that of the administrators and missionaries
abroad: to promote the evolutionary advancement of the savages in
their care. Racial identity had a particular effect on the degree to which
the savages at home could be civilized through education. Thus, al-
The Cosmological Tyranny of Science 29

though deaf students were taught to speak as a civilizing process in an


evolutionary era, many deaf African American students in racist America
were not taught orally or even by a mixture of manualism and oralism
(the combined method) but were taught through signs.7

Eugenics: Identifying and Condemning the Unfit


The age of empire was, therefore, also the age of eugenics, the study of
the improvement of human stock by means of selectively breeding ge-
netically desirable individuals and groups. The eugenics movement was
one of the most overtly discriminatory movements in the history of West-
ern civilization, a movement that sought not only to marginalize those
deemed pathological but also, in its most extreme form, to eliminate
them. It was created and developed by scientists.
The eugenics movement was an expression of the ideology of progress.
It developed directly out of Darwinian theories of evolution, which were
popularized as the survival of the fittest, and Mendelian theories of
heredity. The term eugenics, from the Greek eugenes meaning good
birth, was introduced in Britain in 1883 by Sir Francis Galton, Darwins
cousin. The eugenics movement focused from the start on the develop-
ment of social control over human reproduction to engineer the physical
and mental improvement of future generations. It focused in particular
on racial qualities. Galton founded the Eugenics Society of Great Britain
in 1908, but the German social Darwinist Alfred Ploetz had already
founded a journal of racial and social biology in 1904 and a Society for
Racial Hygiene in 1905, which added eugenics to its title in 1931. The
American Eugenics Society was established in 1923, but an American
Breeders Society with essentially the same goals had begun much earlier.8
The eugenics movement spread quickly to America and to British
colonies such as Australia and South Africa. Throughout western Eu-
rope, it also had a strong effect, receiving its most dramatic and horrific
expression in German Nazism. Intellectual, diagnostic, and pedagogical
developments were not confined by the boundaries of the nation. Acade-
mics, medical specialists, educators, and scientists of all kinds read each
others books and journals, exchanged papers, and met at conferences.
The history of the cultural construction of the disabled is the history
of a process that spread throughout the Western world. The links among
the English-speaking countries in the development of ideas and practices
were particularly strong.
30 a historical overview

From the start, the eugenics movement linked physical beauty and
hereditary fitness. Galton, in fact, began his scientific career by compil-
ing a beauty map of Britain, for which he calculated the ratio of at-
tractive to plain and ugly women he encountered at various locations
(Pernick 1997, 91). Eugenicists claimed that beauty, a beauty focusing
on health and fitness, could be assessed objectively by the trained eye.
As Pernick (1997) graphically shows, the eugenicists, through their
propaganda, actively promoted a concept of beauty that was white and
able-bodied while often portraying the undesirable disabled as non-
whites.
Galtons theories and orientation toward humanity caught the public
imagination as Darwins work had already done and fed into the devel-
opment of ideologies to support imperialism abroad as well as entrepre-
neurial capitalism and scientific progress at home. At home, pathological
elements in the population threatened the assumed intellectual and ge-
netic superiority of the middle classes. Intellectual pathologies were dealt
with through confinement, brain surgery, drugs, and special education.
Genetic pathologies, including hereditary deafness, demanded not only
confinement but also more radical control. In its most extreme form, eu-
genics was a violent and inhumane movement that sought to eliminate
these supposed pathologies through sterilization, the prohibition of mar-
riage, and even murder. In its less violent forms, it involved psychological
pressure on those deemed disabled to refrain from reproduction in the
long-term interests of Western humanity.
Typical of the more aggressive eugenicist orientation was Stokess The
Right to be Well Born or Horse Breeding in its Relation to Eugenics
(Stokes 1917). The authors photograph, facing the title page, speaks vol-
umes. He stands proudly clad in tweed, his hair and thick moustache
neatly trimmed and his prominent chin jutting forward. His eyes are
sharp, or appear so, and are certainly not bespectacled. He appears the
model of the well-born Anglo-American. Stokes writes:

In breeding horses, we render impotent the unfit. We never try to render


fit a sire by education. We have no sanatoriums for weak horses, to keep
them alive at public expense, and then turn them loose to reproduce their
unfitness, to refill more homes for defectives. The same rule should apply to
humans. (Stokes 1917, 56)

Although we know that Alexander Graham Bell had a number of


copies of Stokess book in his library, Bells orientation was somewhat
The Cosmological Tyranny of Science 31

different.9 Bells focus was on promoting the production of well-born


people rather than the elimination of the badly born. Bell wrote:

Improvement depends upon increasing the number and proportion of


desirables born in successive generations of the population. Hence, this
should be the chief object of eugenics; and it is to be regretted that the ef-
forts of eugenists have been mainly directed to the diminution of the unde-
sirable class.
So much has this been the case that the very word eugenics is sugges-
tive to most minds of hereditary diseases and objectionable abnormalities;
and of an attempt to interfere, by compulsory means, with the marriages of
the defective and undesirable. This relates to cacogenics (badly born)
rather than to eugenics (well born). (Bell 1914, 6; Bells italics)

Milder though Bells position was, it still required the identification not
only of the well-born, the desirables, but also the concomitant identifi-
cation of the undesirable class, those judged defective. Eugenics was
built on the diagnostic procedures that identified human pathologies. It
lumped together all those who in some sense had been diagnosed as
pathological and labeled them badly born, defective humans who,
as Murphy (1995) has shown, were seen as contaminators, threatening
the population and the rational progress of Western humanity.
The otherness of the people diagnosed as pathological, especially
when that pathology was present from birth, became akin to the other-
ness of another race or even another species. The progress of the Western
powers was seen to lie not only in the rational organization of society but
also in its genetic management, progress that not only would keep the
chaotic forces of unreason in check but also would destroy them. Most
people who were deaf at this time claimed and, indeed, most people who
are deaf today claim to have become deaf as a result of illness or acci-
dent. The stigma of being born deaf was extreme.10 (In later chapters, we
will explore why people who were deaf were frequent targets for the
eugenicists.)
Together, evolutionism and eugenics dominated developments in the
social sciences, in the medical and psychological sciences, and in the ped-
agogical development of compulsory education. Anthropologists spent
as much time measuring heads as they did studying culture (see Leach
1982), and psychology focused on the physical and intellectual measure-
ment of mental pathology. Attention became increasingly intent on the
effective promotion of particular physical types associated with intellec-
32 a historical overview

tual and moral capacity. Goddards screening of potential immigrants


to the United States in the 1920s on the basis of physical characteristics
and Hitlers identification of the true Aryan as well as his attempted
extermination of what he saw as the racially inferior Jews were but ex-
treme expressions of a general ideological trend (see Gilman 1991b). The
German experience represents the most extreme example of an orienta-
tion toward the other that enveloped the Western world.11

Eugenics, Nazism, and the Elimination


of Congenital Disabilities

The Law for the Prevention of Offspring with Hereditary Diseases took
effect in Germany in January 1934, a law that eventually led to the
sterilization of approximately 375,000 German nationals (Friedlander
1999, 5). The law began: Any person suffering from a hereditary dis-
ease can be sterilized if medical knowledge indicates that his offspring
will suffer from hereditary physical or mental damage (quoted from
Friedlander 1999, 5). Friedlander continues:

The law defined a person suffering from a hereditary disease, and thus
a candidate for sterilization, as anyone afflicted with one of the following
disabilities: congenital feeble-mindedness, schizophrenia, folie circulaire
(manic-depressive psychosis), hereditary epilepsy, hereditary St. Vitus
dance (Huntingtons chorea), hereditary blindness, hereditary deafness,
severe hereditary physical deformity, and severe alcoholism, on a discre-
tionary basis. (Friedlander 1999, 5)

Tens of thousands of people were sterilized against their will in the


first year of the law, and by 1935, the law had been extended to provide
for the forced abortion of potentially disabled babies. Marriages were
prohibited where either party suffered from a mental derangement or
had a hereditary disease specified in the sterilization law (Friedlander
1999, 6). By 1939, the German government began the mass murder of
the disabled, labeling the program euthanasia and the destruction
of life unworthy of life (Friedlander 1999, 7). First, disabled infants and
children were forcibly hospitalized and killed. At the same time, the hos-
pitalization and killing of disabled adults began to be followed by the
development of killing centers where adults were gassed. Popular oppo-
sition to the killings grew and Hitler ordered them stopped in August
1941, but the locus of the killing was simply shifted outside Germany to
Poland and the Soviet Union.
The Cosmological Tyranny of Science 33

Even inside Germany, where the murder of disabled children had not
been stopped, the murder of disabled adults soon resumed. But hence-
forth, they were killed in selected state hospitals through starvation,
overdoses of medication, or deadly injections.

As the war continued, the decentralized killings became even more arbi-
trary and the killing hospitals came to resemble concentration camps. In the
Pomeranian state hospital Meseritz-Obrawalde, one of the leading killing
institutions of wild euthanasia, the staff not only killed those unable to
work, but in addition also patients who increased the workload of the
nurses, were deafmute, sick, or disobedient. (Friedlander 1999, 11)

After the war, disabled people were not recognized as having been per-
secuted by the Nazis. Where a medical diagnosis of an hereditary dis-
abling condition was found to have been correct, the act of the Nazi
regime was ruled by postwar courts to have followed proper proce-
dures. In 1964, a Jewish person who was deaf and who had been steril-
ized by the Nazis was recognized by the court as having been persecuted
as a Jew, but the court ruled that his sterilization as a deaf person did
not constitute Nazi persecution (Friedlander 1999, 1112). The clinical
gaze continued to cast those who were diagnosed pathological, or be-
yond the pale of humanity, as not equal before the law.
The horror story of Nazi Germany was simply a logical step away
from what was going on throughout the Western world between the
wars. Moves toward the forced sterilization of disabled people and the
prohibition of marriages between them were common in Britain, Amer-
ica, and Australia. The conditions under which severely disabled children
were confined in institutions until relatively recently were just one step
away from the killing hospitals described by Friedlander. The euthana-
sia of disabled infants was not confined to Nazi Germany. In America in
the years 19101919, a Chicago surgeon, Harry Haiselden, publicized
his active euthanasia of at least six infants he had diagnosed as defec-
tives. Publicizing his actions,

he displayed the dying infants to journalists and wrote a book-length series


about them for the Hearst newspapers. His campaign was front-page news
for weeks at a time. He also wrote and starred in a feature motion picture,
The Black Stork, a fictionalized account of his cases. (Pernick 1997, 89)

The public and professional support for Haiseldens actions in failing


to care for defective babies and therefore letting them die was strong,
34 a historical overview

though not for his publicizing his actions. Although a series of legal in-
vestigations upheld Haiseldens refusal to treat impaired newborns, . . .
he was expelled from the Chicago Medical Society for publicizing his ac-
tions (Pernick 1997, 110 n. 52). As Pernicks research indicates (Pernick
1996, 1997), this form of euthanasia was entrusted to the doctors as ob-
jective scientists: [P]opular support for giving doctors this . . . power
[of life over death] depended on a broader progressive-era faith in the
methods of science, a faith that was actively promoted by medical and
eugenic leaders (Pernick 1997, 110 n. 51). Today, the aborting of fe-
tuses identified through ultrasound or blood tests as disabled is com-
mon. The clinical gaze continued and continues to define the contours of
humanity.12

Notes
1. Boyle, natural philosopher and chemist, settled in Oxford from London in
1654. In 1668, he left Oxford for London where he stayed until his death. He
was elected president of the Royal Society in 1680.
2. Wilkins resigned from Oxford in 1659 to become master of Trinity Col-
lege, Cambridge. He lost the position after the restoration of the monarchy, hav-
ing been on the side of parliament during the civil war, but he made peace with
the royalists and soon moved through the ranks of the established church. Many
of his belongings, his library, and some manuscripts were destroyed in the Great
Fire of London in 1666. In 1668, he was made Bishop of Chester.
3. This philosophical heritage is still dominant today, evident in Umberto
Ecos recent dismissal of any form of gesture as capable of constituting a lan-
guage because gestures must, according to Eco, depend (parasitically) on the se-
mantic universe of the verbal language (Eco 1995, 174). According to Eco, the
gestures must be anchored through association with the words of a verbal lan-
guage. In a similar vein, the philosopher Walter Ong wrote that elaborated sign
languages are substitutes for speech and dependent on oral speech systems, even
when used by the congenitally deaf (Ong 1982, 7).
4. Note that the French philosophers who inspired a revolutionVoltaire,
Condillac, Diderot, Rousseau, and othersbased their sense realist theories
on the work of earlier British philosophers, particularly that of Locke.
5. To quote Brewers Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, The word is from Lat.
palum, a stake; hence a fence, a territory with defined limits. Hence the phrases
Within the pale and Beyond the pale, pale here meaning the bounds of civi-
lization or civilized behaviour. (Evans 1982, 824).
6. See chapter 7 and Baynton (1996, ch. 2).
7. See Baynton (1996, 4546).
8. See Gould (1984).
The Cosmological Tyranny of Science 35

9. We came across copies of Stokess book in a collection of Bells books on


eugenics in the Volta Bureau in Washington, D.C.
10. Note that among those Deaf who have embraced the concept of Deaf
Pridepride in their distinctive languages, pride in being Deafbeing born deaf
is now treasured.
11. For a more recent example of the use of IQ testing to claim the intellec-
tual superiority of whites over blacks, see Jensen (1985).
12. We do not mean to imply by this observation that all doctors or even all
eugenicists supported euthanasia by neglect. As we have pointed out in dis-
cussing Alexander Graham Bells approach, many eugenicists overtly opposed
the elimination of the unfit, focusing instead on preventative measures such as
influencing marriage patterns.
2
The Domestication of Difference:
The Classification, Segregation,
and Institutionalization of Unreason

It must be admitted that the normal man knows that he


is so only in a world where every man is not normal. . . .
In order for the normal man to believe himself so, and
call himself so, he needs not the foretaste of disease but
its projected shadow.
Canguilhem 1988b, 286

By the eighteenth century, reason and science stood triumphant, and


madness was marginalized and confined. People who were mad came to
be seen as pitiful rather than dangerous and as in need of help. Madness
was viewed as a form of chaos and degradation that must be contained.
It was no longer the source of wisdom; rather, the antithesis of reason.
When St. Lukes was opened in England in 1751, it was called an asy-
lum, not a madhouse, and casual sightseeing was banned from the out-
set (Porter 1987, 130). The orientation toward madness was shifting
from confinement to treatment, treatment based on increasingly com-
plex diagnosis. Central to the development of diagnostic procedures was
the development of concepts of normality and pathology.

36
The Domestication of Difference 37

The Cultural Construction of Pathological Humanity:


From Order versus Chaos to Normality versus Pathology
The father of scientific sociology, Auguste Comte (17981857), spear-
headed the ideology of normality. The most important effect of this
ideology on the construction of the disabled was the fact that he con-
centrated on normality as being equivalent to the order of things, as
a normative order, and defined the pathology as deficiency or ex-
cess. In Comtes positivism, the normative order was not simply a qual-
ity of social or natural phenomena to be discovered but a highly valued
condition (see Canguilhem 1988b, 5657).
The concept of normality entered not only the language of science but
also the language of everyday life, especially that of the middle classes for
whom the distinction between normality and pathology became a vital
source of social control. Canguilhem wrote of the extension of normal
into everyday life in France:

Between 1759, when the word normal appeared, and 1834 when the
word normalized appeared, a normative class had won the power to
identifya beautiful example of an ideological illusionthe function of so-
cial norms, whose content it determined, with the use that that class made
of them. (Canguilhem 1988b, 246)

In England, the process occurred a little later, with the concepts being
adopted from France. Thus, the term normal with its normative meaning
of not deviating or differing from a type or standard; regular, usual is
listed in the Oxford English Dictionary as having first appeared in 1828
and normalize, in 1868, both vital ideological components of the nine-
teenth-century worldview. The dialectic between scientific measurement
and sociocultural evaluation was well under way as the etymology of
normality moved toward the effective exclusion of the noncompliant
as well as the effective marginalization and exclusion of the noncon-
formist, the different. A norm draws its meaning, function and value
from the fact of the existence, outside itself, of what does not meet the re-
quirement it serves (Canguilhem 1988b, 239). Marginalized, hidden,
excluded, cast beyond the pale, damned to silence and to pseudo nonex-
istence, those diagnosed as the embodiment of the pathological were the
essential foil to the arrogant normality of the definers and their fellow
travelers. The concept of normality remained and remains at all times in-
secure, dependent on its opposite and in constant need of reaffirmation.
38 a historical overview

A view of a diverse humanity that was imbued with almost infinite dif-
ference gave way to a view of an essentially uniform humanity that was
surrounded on its edges, on its margins, by the pathological foils to that
uniformity or normality. But no pathological population could exist
until one was culturally constructed. And so, we turn to the processes of
diagnosis, the ideological practice by which the pathological were sep-
arated from the former flux of humanity, the process by which normality
was constructed and reconstructed through each diagnosis.

The Diagnosis of the Pathological


Diagnosis involves the interpretation and evaluation of characteristics
and behaviors in terms of preconceived conceptualizations and classi-
fications of the world. It is the taxonomic ordering of reality. The
medical classification, interpretation, and evaluation of human charac-
teristics and behavior were developed through the transformation of
concepts of health and illness that were based on the concepts of nor-
mality and pathology. How these diagnoses proceeded and how the body
and human behavior were understood were rooted in the Cartesian dual-
ism of mind and body.
The Cartesian dualism of mind and body, while elevating the prod-
ucts of the mind to the status of eternal, disembodied knowledge, also
stressed the materiality of the body, which was to be understood like
any other physical objectlike a well-made clock, to use Descartess
own imagery. Accordingly, in the development of scientific medicine,
the clinical gaze was directed to the physical body and to the taxonomies
of pathologies that were built on knowledge gained from cadavers, from
lifeless objects. Medical knowledge was to be based solely on sensory
perception, on observation, on a perpetual and objectively based corre-
lation of the visible and the expressible (Foucault 1975, 196).
The focus on death and on the dissection of cadavers resulted in a
rush for bodies. The major but very limited official source of bodies in
Britain was people sentenced to death as criminals. In France after the
Revolution, the Reign of Terror in which people accused of being op-
posed to the Revolution were guillotined or slaughtered provided an un-
paralleled source of cadavers for dissection, but throughout Europe, the
demand for bodies for medical schools was so great that an illegal trade
in corpses flourished; people were paid to steal bodies from graves or
even from houses where they lay awaiting their funerals. In 1829, Burke
The Domestication of Difference 39

and Hare, two body snatchers in Edinburgh, were found guilty of mur-
dering people to sell their bodies to anatomists. At the same time, Britain
passed a law providing that bodies of poor people who died without rel-
atives to pay for a funeral would be given to medical schools. In London,
the famous surgeon Astley Cooper, who will feature in our discussion of
the history of ear surgery in part 2, boasted that he could acquire in a
few days the body of any person who had recently died in the United
Kingdom through a wide network of body snatchers. The availability of
severed heads in France provided for rapid advances in anatomical
knowledge of the ear.
With the body reconstituted as a machine-like object, the clinical gaze
focused on its order, on its regularity, judged in terms of deviations
from a physical norm. Whereas medicine had, up to the end of the
eighteenth century, focused on health rather than normality, nineteenth-
century medicine was concerned more with normality than health (see
Foucault 1975, 35). Its concern was with departures of the physical con-
dition from what was understood as the normative standard. Both the
clinical gaze and its objects of diagnosis were ruled by the five senses. The
patients health was judged not only in terms of the persons physical nor-
mality and pathology but also in terms of the effective functioning of the
five senses. To lack one of the five senses was to become less than sensible
or less than normal and, thus, to be incapable of sensibility or rationality.
So forceful was the sensible, empiricist focus promoted by Hobbes
and Locke that the mind became nothing more than the product of
sensory experience. Although Descartess dualism survived to separate
the psychological from the biological, his spiritual and even mystical
view of mind disappeared from establishment medicine and psychology.
The mind became nothing more than its observable products and, in the
hands of psychiatry, little more than the physical brain, judged in terms
of the normality of mentally induced behaviors and the normality of
brain functioning. Disorderly behavior, if not the product of a disordered
and therefore pathological body was assumed to be the product of a dis-
ordered and therefore pathological mind. Control, order, adherence to
the norm, compliance with the norm, the expected, and the conventional
were the marks of normality. Above all, as we pointed out in the previous
chapter, the ongoing Cartesian separation of mind and body focused di-
agnostic procedures on language. The production of irrational language
was seen as evidence of an irrational mind. The production of no lan-
guage was frequently seen as evidence of mindlessness.
40 a historical overview

Thus, the experts who claimed control of the insane and the dis-
abled at the end of the eighteenth century saw in their patients people
who, because they could not reason in a way that measured up to their
arbitrary normative standards, must have their lives controlled for them
by others. Once confined and displayed during the seventeenth and eigh-
teenth centuries, they became the objects of a new kind of display and of
a new and more encompassing control in the nineteenth century. They
were displayed to the clinical gaze and controlled not only physically but
also to the very core of their being.

The Attempted Normalization of the Pathological:


The Moral Therapy Movement
The focus on sensory development generated an inclination on the part
of those who dealt with the abnormal to cure rather than simply to
confine. The curative process was in turn seen as integrally linked to the
sensory environment within which the treatment was to take place, thus
giving rise to the concept of the asylum.
As with the diagnosis of physical pathology, the clinical gaze was, in
the case of the diagnosis of mental disorders, on the body and its behav-
ior. Although the use of drugs and a wide range of drastic mechanical
therapies were used in the majority of cases, a new approach emerged,
that was focused on the moral management of the patient, particularly
through the influence of William Battie.1 This individualistic and thera-
peutic approach to madness was referred to as moral management to
indicate the need to deal also with the patients mind and not just with
the body.
The move to systemic, group-based moral therapy instead of individ-
ual moral management dates effectively from the founding of the York
Retreat in 1796, founded in response to the death in 1793 of a young
Quaker widow in the York Asylum who died under mysterious circum-
stances associated with the use of medical remedies and with general in-
human brutality. With missionary zeal, the practitioners in the York Re-
treat sought to return those who had gone insane to the rational world
through moral regeneration. Normalization was the driving force.
Through the thorough programming of their patients lives, they hoped
that order would triumph. For those recently rendered insane, the pro-
gram would result in a return to normality; for the fools and idiots,
the incurables, and those born to unreason, it would be a demonstra-
The Domestication of Difference 41

tion of the power of discipline, of order, of education, and above all,


of morality. Many of those who collected the insane and disabled to-
gether in asylums were concerned as much with the saving of souls as
with the transformation of behavior.
In 1792, four years before the establishment of the York Retreat, an-
other establishment was founded: the Asylum for the Support and Edu-
cation of the Deaf and Dumb Children of the Poor in the Grange Road in
Bermondsey in London, for the moral management of deaf children.
In these other asylums of the early nineteenth century, the asylums for
the deaf and blind, the same missionary zeal prevailed (see chapter 5).
As mentioned above, moral management did not necessarily dispense
with medicines. The treatment of the body involved medicine; the
treatment of the mind, management. But medical treatments still were
seen as useful in the context of wider therapeutics. In Paris at the Na-
tional Institute for the Deaf, the surgeon Jean Marc Itard was exploring
the mind of the wild boy of Aveyron and preparing to use a wide range
of surgical and other medical procedures on the institutes pupils in an
effort to make them hear. Although surgeons traveled throughout the
Western world comparing techniques and training in new procedures,
the role of surgery in the emerging schools for the people who were both
poor and deaf varied from country to country.2 Thus, while the Paris
school in early nineteenth-century France became a virtual laboratory
for Itards horrendous experiments, the deaf asylum in Britain remained
a place for the moral management of the mind, shunning the intrusion
of medicine.3 In Napoleonic France, the state defined education as
a public enterprise, a normalizing process in the interests of order and
conformity (see Foucault 1979). However, in Britain, the state did not
intrude into the educational sphere. Rather, a strong protestant ethic
stressed the importance of charitable works through the establishment
and private support of charitable institutions that were oriented toward
moral uplift. But outside the schools, surgeons such as Cooper and
Turnbull experimented on deaf adults.
The moralists and educators of the early nineteenth century wanted to
normalize. But this predilection went against the grain of a society that
demanded a clear boundary between the normal and the pathological,
not only in theory but also in practice; against the grain of a polity and
legal system that demanded rational electors and citizens; against the
grain of an economy that demanded an individualized approach to work
by able-bodied workers; and against the grain of privatized religions that
42 a historical overview

stressed the vital importance of the work ethic and an individuated as


well as rational relation to ones God.
Moral management constitutes the individualistic, heroic phase of
early psychiatry, writes Porter (1987, 222), but he adds, this Her-
culean phase proved short-lived. It was too personal to be permanent.
Weberian bureaucratization set in, and the future was to lie with system
rather than with charisma (223). In this Age of Empire, the whole at-
mosphere and orientation of the asylum was transformed. The missionary
zeal and the atmosphere of family were no longer appropriate. The
Darwinians were particularly conscious of their social standing, of their
professional status and superiority, of their honor in the community. They
did not seek moral management and an identification with the humanity
of their patients by means of a pseudo-kinship, as the moral managers had
done. Rather, they sought to distance themselves from the pathological in
the same way as the imperial power distanced itself from those it con-
quered through the assertion of racial and cultural superiority.

The Iron Cage of Bureaucracy 4


By the end of the nineteenth century, the combined forces of industrial-
ization and imperialism had created societies of enormous complexity.
Economic and political relationships were rarely governed by commu-
nity ties and responsibilities but were coordinated through rational
administrative procedures. With the majority of the population living
in relatively isolated families and alienated from their neighborhoods
as well as at work, access to educational, medical, and leisure facilities
depended increasingly on formalized, depersonalized, rational admin-
istrative structures and processes. The age of bureaucracy had dawned,
and in the process, the whole character not only of psychology but also
of childhood and education were transformed.
Compulsory schooling, dating in Britain from the Education Act of
1870, was generated by the logic of the ideology of equality and by a
range of sometimes contradictory forces, including the demand for liter-
ate semiskilled and skilled workers and the demand of an increasingly
bureaucratized administration for literate and numerate citizens. What-
ever the causes, compulsory schooling demanded the effective coordina-
tion of teachers, schools, and curricula. Rational administration required
an ordered educational environment. The idiosyncratic school, teacher,
or pupil created administrative complexities. The formalization of teach-
The Domestication of Difference 43

ing qualifications, the categorization of the teachers in terms of what and


who they taught, the need for uniform curricula, and the need to cate-
gorize pupils into graded classes and vocationally oriented streams were
all rationalized as administratively appropriate. Prospective pupils were
tested to determine their appropriate places in the increasingly complex
educational system. The tests themselves were refined and multiplied
to meet these administrative demands.
As we proceed through the age of bureaucracy, the people who come
to dominate the history of education are not innovative educators but
professional administrators. We also enter an age of overt linguistic im-
perialism with respect to the education of linguistic minorities because
the devaluation of minority languages and the imposition of the domi-
nant language is not simply the decision of an individual school principal
but also becomes government policy.

Professionalism and the Depersonalization of Disabilities


Professionalism was a vital ingredient in the consolidation of imperial
superiority at home and abroad in the second half of the nineteenth cen-
tury. The medical profession played a key role, not only in the assertion
of professional authority and status but also in the biological legitimation
of white, male, Anglo-Saxon, bourgeois superiority. This is the period
when psychiatry consolidated its position and became a profession in
which experts were dealing not only with the embodied impediments to
rational progress but also with those incipient lunatics that threatened
society (see Showalter 1987, chap. 4). It is also the period when, as we
will see in detail in chapter 7, the professionalization of teaching drove
teachers who were deaf from the schools and transformed education into
therapy. Many histories of deaf education see the international commit-
ment to oralism at the Milan Congress of Teachers of the Deaf in 1880
as causing the disenfranchisement of people who were deaf. History is
much more complex than that. One can best understand specific influ-
ential moves such as the Milan Congress by exploring the interweaving
of industrialization, imperialism, bureaucratization, and professionaliza-
tion. A group of thoroughly socialized individuals who were middle class
and who maintained an imperial orientation were reinterpreting the
goals and purpose of deaf education. In doing so, they were, like so many
around them, orienting themselves toward others in evolutionist terms
that were soon to become distinctly eugenicist.
44 a historical overview

In this intensely professional, intensely imperialist, and thus, con-


descending environment, people who were diagnosed as being mad
especially the poor and females, rich as well as poorfared badly. They
were scorned and manipulated but, nonetheless, were the source of es-
teem for the doctors if they recovered. People who were disabled from
birth fared even worse. They were condemned by the late-nineteenth cen-
tury not only as racial degenerates but also as genetic incurables. To be-
come deaf, blind, crippled, feebleminded, or mad, if not the result of a
clear physical accident, was assumed to be the result of disease. Although
the propensity to disease was sometimes seen as being associated with
genetic weakness, disease might be dealt with, even cured. Those who
suffered these pathological conditions from birth were, on the whole,
simply cared for at best. In their case, pathology, was assumed to perme-
ate the individual. They could not return to normality. At best, they
could be studied scientificallymeasured, observed, and even used for
scientific experiments.
The intense scientific activity generated not only the technological
advances that fed industrial capitalism but also the biological and psy-
chological theories that gave rise to evolutionism and eugenics. These
evolutionist and eugenicist theories provided an apparently rational le-
gitimacy, on the one hand, for imperial domination abroad and, on the
other hand, for domination based in class, race, ethnicity, gender, and
able-bodiedness at home. Above all, they provided the rationale and the
substance for the bureaucratic administration of citizens. Although bu-
reaucracy took a number of forms in the West in the late-nineteenth and
early twentieth centuries, all these forms relied on eugenicist processes in
the categorization and administration of society. Through the first half
of the twentieth century, variations of eugenics provided the ideological
base for the development of administrative processes in a wide range of
political settings. The rational administrative procedures of Britain and
America depended as much on eugenicist views of humanity to provide
the categories required for effective administration as the individuated
charismatic dictatorship of Hitler did.
The complex intertwining of colonialism and Darwinian evolutionism
produced a sense of hereditary superiority among the British upper
and middle classes. This hereditary superiority was the rationale for their
domination of colonial subjects and the working classes alike. Their
superiority was now rationalized not only in terms of their dedication
to work and their greater cultural refinement, their distinction, to use
The Domestication of Difference 45

Bourdieus term with its connotations of superior taste, but also in terms
of their genetic superiority.5 They saw themselves as biologically superior
and could remain so only through the segregation of inferior stock at
home and overseas.
The sources of madness and other pathologies were sought in biology,
especially sources related to the genetic propensity for parents of partic-
ular quality to produce disabled, genetically inferior children. Parents
were ostracized, and the insane were segregated simply to protect the
rest of humanity. The white bourgeoisie asserted a superiority that was
based not only in reason but also in nature. In this environment, those
deemed physically unnatural (i.e., disabled), especially if they were
racially different, fared particularly badly. They were the antithesis of
what was desirable in a white, male, Anglo-Saxon, cultured, and rational
human being.
To excel as a man meant to excel not only intellectually but also, at
least as importantly, at sport. The Oxbridge blue; the Rhodes scholar;
the cricket-playing, rugby-playing, polo-playing officer in colonial or
military service: these were the pinnacles of able-bodiedness. The con-
cepts of sport as the pursuit of competitive games, of the sportsman as
one practicing and excelling in games, and of sportsmanship as derived
from the effective and rational pursuit of sporting activities all emerge in
the second half of the nineteenth century. Sport is no longer simply a dal-
liance, a casual pastime, but a serious business, the mark of bourgeois
manliness, the hallmark of genetically advanced able-bodiedness. A
healthy body and a healthy mind was more than a vague clich or apho-
rism. It was the central article of faith of the Darwinian medical profes-
sion. Where mental disability occurred, this profession sought a physi-
cal signin head shape, spine, or general physiqueand where physical
abnormality occurred, they assumed mental problems would be
found.
Prior to the First World War, the burgeoning psychiatric profession di-
agnosed the vast proportion of people who were not simply disabled in
limb as mentally retarded, mentally defective, or feebleminded.6
This approach was consolidated by the development of intelligence quo-
tient (IQ) tests in the early 1900s, allowing for the measurement of
mental proficiency and the subsequent declaration of levels of intellectual
pathology. Like the people in the colonies who were labeled racially infe-
rior, the people labeled mentally retarded were seen as evolutionary
throwbacks, as evidence of racial degeneration as Down (1990) put it,
46 a historical overview

labeling his patients who had Downs syndrome as Mongols. Their


treatment was as inhuman as the treatment meted out to native inhabitants
of Australia or Africa who were seen to embody the living stone age.

Formal Education as a Disabling Process


Toward the end of the nineteenth century, formal education emerges as
possibly the most important agent of normalization in the West. The
schools, shaped by the forces of professionalization and bureaucratiza-
tion, with their cultural substance formed by the eugenics movement and
developments in medicine and psychology, became the prime sites for the
identification and treatment of disabilities.
The atmosphere that existed just before the First World War and be-
fore the introduction of IQ testing and in which children were deemed
disabled by a clinical gaze is summed up in the following quotation from
a report by the newly established medical inspectors in schools in the
state of Victoria in Australia.7 It became the basis for establishing the
first special school in Victoria in 1912:

[T]here is the first classthe hopeless idiot who will almost never be
able to look after himself, but may be taught good manners and cleanly
habits, and segregated in asylums so as not to be a nuisance both to himself
and those about him. He further may be often rendered useful by teaching
him some of the manual artsfarming, gardening, shoemaking, basket-
weaving, etc. Into the asylum class tends to fall the epileptic. . . . The second
main class is that of the child who is educable up to a certain point, and
may, perhaps eventually be able to earn his living by manual labour. . . .
These come to grief inevitably in the large classes of our primary school sys-
tem. It is only by the organization of special classes where these children
receive the personal attention of specially qualified teachers that the best
results may be obtained. . . . The third class is made up of those who are
merely dull, and whose attendance at a special school for a couple of years
may bring them up to the age of standard again. These also will do little
good in large classes where individual attention is practically out of the
question. (quoted in Lewis 1983, 19)

The clinical gaze was diagnosing and classifying the children of Aus-
tralia and, in the process, determining their futures and the roles they
would play in the development of Australias human potential. Children
who were caught in the pathological net were doomed by being denied a
normal education.
The Domestication of Difference 47

These feebleminded students were characterized as so much grit in


the hub of the educational machine (Lewis, 1983, 21), and though spe-
cial schools were advocated in part on humanitarian grounds, with a de-
gree of concern for the orientation of at least the dull toward the pub-
lic labor market, the prime orientation was segregationist. In 1930, the
English Board of Control referred to these feebleminded students as
tainted stock. To people outside the special schools, the children inside
were all of a kindsubnormal, disabled, retarded.
The main tool used in the classification and marginalization of dis-
abled children was the introduction of psychological tests, particularly
Goddards revision of the Binet Scale. These intelligence tests measured a
childs IQ and were soon in use throughout the Western world, catering
to a general perceived need for standardized tests that would allow for
the effective streaming of children in an age of compulsory schooling.8
The testing of human intelligence dates essentially from the 1860s
when the founder of the eugenics movement, Sir Francis Galton, at-
tempted to develop intelligence tests to correlate intelligence with other
aspects of an individuals behavior. By the late-nineteenth century, people
were experimenting with a wide range of physical and intellectual tests,
and in 1905, the French psychologists Alfred Binet and Thodore Simon
produced tests to measure intellectual capacity (Binet and Simon 1905).
Although Binet had developed his tests to identify the retarded to sup-
port the development of special schooling that would help those who, for
whatever reason, performed poorly intellectually, his tests were soon ori-
ented toward not only help but also segregation and oppression.
In America, Goddard, whose work had widespread influence through-
out the English-speaking world, used the tests to overtly eugenic ends: to
prevent the entry into America of migrants judged mentally defective on
the basis of IQ tests. He biased testing culturally and linguistically and
manipulated IQ scales to ensure that subjects were judged moronic
and thus undesirable in an effort to support his conviction that certain
ethnic groups were mentally inferior. Goddard was the one who divided
the mentally defective into idiots, imbeciles, and morons; who
ranged mental types along a unilinear scale that was overtly related to
the linear evolutionary scales of races and social types of evolutionary
anthropology; who linked mental performance to moral fiber, assum-
ing all criminals, prostitutes, and so forth to be morons; and who ra-
tionalized class differences as the result of hereditary difference in mental
capacity, even doctoring photographs of mountain families to make them
look sinister to support his views (see Gould 1984, 171).
48 a historical overview

In Goddards hands, the clinical gaze reached new heights of fortune-


telling brilliance as his assistants picked out the feebleminded on sight
at the wharves. Although Goddard recanted to some degree in 1928, de-
claring that feeble-mindedness (the moron) is not incurable . . . [, and]
. . . the feeble-minded do not generally need to be segregated in institu-
tions (quoted in Gould 1984, 174; Goddards italics), the damage had
been done. The mania for testing was infectious; the need for the middle
classes to rationalize and assert their superiority in an individualized
competitive environment was uppermost ideologically. Mental capacity
was assumed to be a measure of personal worth.
Language abilities were central to effective performance on tests.
So, for example, idiots were characterized as those who could not
develop full speech (Gould 1984, 158). Not surprisingly, the word
dumb became synonymous with stupidity.9 People who were deaf did
not stand a chance. In many cases, deaf children and adults were not
actually identified as deaf but were assumed to lack spoken language
because they were idiots. As idiots, they were assumed to be inedu-
cable and were shut away in homes for the mentally defective.
Decades later, when these homes were closed down in an era of deinsti-
tutionalization, adults emerged who were in no way mentally defec-
tive but only deaf. Amy (a pseudonym) now lives at a nursing home for
the deaf in Melbourne, Australia. She is in her sixties. Until a few years
ago, she lived at Kew Cottages, an asylum for the mentally retarded.
She had lived there virtually all her life because, as a child, she had been
judged incapable of even doing an IQ test, diagnosed as severely men-
tally retarded. She had never had her own bedroom. She had never
communicated coherently with anyone. She had no language.
In Melbourne in the 1920s, Porteus enthusiastically embraced the use
of the Goddard tests and then the equally biased Stanford Revision of the
Binet Scale by Terman (see Gould 1984) before developing his own
now internationally famous Porteus Maze Test (Lewis 1983, 34). The
clinical gaze was now informed by and, even more, legitimized by ram-
pant testing that was assumed to be objective and infallible, testing that
was claimed to reveal stable, genetically based levels of intelligence. The
abnormal were removed first and foremost because they hampered the
education of the normal and to reduce, by means of training, their dis-
turbing influence on society as adults.
But the segregation of the abnormal was not by any means moti-
vated only by fear and by a concern with effective segregation. Humani-
The Domestication of Difference 49

tarian concerns were also important and, indeed, featured prominently


in ideological justifications for segregated special education. The dis-
abling effects of the process were rarely, if ever, expressed and under-
stood. The tension between humanitarian and eugenicist motives was
strong and explicit. The fear that defectives might proliferate as a re-
sult of their humanitarian treatment and associated rehabilitation re-
mained strong.10 The contradictions inherent in an egalitarian, individu-
alistic, competitive, ruthless, and essentially unequal society remained as
stark as ever.
During the interwar period, the concentration was on providing fa-
cilities for the effective segregation of the feebleminded, a category
encompassing a vast range of conditions. At this stage, treatment,
training, and therapy were given little attention as far as those judged
ineducable were concerned. Eugenic anxieties were still uppermost,
particularly among the middle classes.

The Postwar Era: Therapy, Normalization,


and Human Rights
In the period after the Second World War, theories and policies, though
not necessarily practices, changed dramatically as the Age of Empire
waned. Practices took some time to change, as is evident in Goffmans
description of asylum life in the late 1950s in America where he describes
the asylum as a place of confinement rather than of treatment (Goffman
1961) and in Rosemary Crossley and Annie MacDonalds description of
conditions in hospitals for children who were severely disabled in Aus-
tralia in the 1970s (Crossley and MacDonald 1979). But the excesses
of Nazi Germany in the pursuit of eugenics had to be condemned out-
right rather than acknowledged as the extreme expression of a pervasive
Western ideology.11
As the pendulum swung away from repressive segregation and back
toward therapeutic treatment, toward more or less integration of the
disabled into normal activities, and as it swung away from inedu-
cability and toward training for living, the psychiatrists and medicos in
general maintained their control over the lives of the disabled. Special
education blossomed. As the pendulum swung back to another era of
therapy, the scientifically trained professionals became more than simply
diagnosticians and prescribers of drugs, surgery, and segregation; they
also became integral contributors to the growing bureaucracy concerned
50 a historical overview

with special education (Tomlinson 1982, 53). The increasing role of diag-
nostic professionals from the 1940s to 1970s in Britain is shown in the
makeup of the committee formed in 1973 under Mary Warnock to review
educational provisions for handicapped children and young people:

The variety of professionals on this committee indicates the expansion of


vested interests in the, by now, considerable field of special education. Ad-
ministrators, doctors, psychologists, heads of special schools, social service
directors, university professors, a retired NUT secretary, and a TUC secre-
tary were represented on the committee. One parent of handicapped chil-
dren was on the committee but she was also chairman of the education
committee of the National Deaf Childrens Society. One head of an ordinary
school was a member. (Tomlinson 1982, 55)

With the move to compulsory secondary education by means of the


1944 Education Act in Britain, the testing of pupils for effective catego-
rization and streaming into different compartments of the educational
system intensified. With respect to the disabled, the Act treated
pupils who suffer from any disability of the mind or body as a single
group (Kirp 1983, 79). Local education authorities were instructed to
ascertain who these children are, to determine their disability primarily
through medical examination, and to provide for the education of a
pupil with a serious disability in an appropriate special school, or any
other suitable school where this was impractical or the disability was not
serious (79). But those children diagnosed as uneducable mental de-
fectives remained the responsibility of the Health Service until 1970
when they were placed under the responsibility of local education au-
thorities and were integrated into special education.
The overt purpose of medical and psychological testing was to chan-
nel people toward different sections of the labor market according to
their educational and vocational potential. That potential was estab-
lished through IQ testing. This concern with educational and vocational
potential is what gave rise to the increasing diversification of educational
programs for deaf students. The educational and vocational potential of
a child who was deaf was determined by the level of hearing loss, in
other words, by their potential to respond to an oral education. Children
who were severely and profoundly deaf were sent to the old schools for
the deaf and were assumed to be capable of only a very basic education
because education was equated with language proficiency, and lan-
guage proficiency was equated with proficiency in the dominant lan-
The Domestication of Difference 51

guage, both spoken and written. The old deaf schools also increasingly
took in children with multiple disabilities, a group that had formerly
been denied access to the deaf schools and had been confined in nonedu-
cational asylums or simply kept at home. Their presence reinforced the
image that all of the students who were deaf were essentially ineducable.
In Britain, America, and Australia, IQ testing in schools during the
prewar period had been oriented toward the identification of the feeble-
minded to ensure their segregation for the protection of the normal
population. Through the 1950s, IQ testing continued to yield a sub-
normal population in need of segregation of one sort or another,
whether in special school or home. At the same time, testing was also
yielding the students with high IQs who would be educated in selective
high schools. Testing was increasingly legitimized as a practice that
yielded not the feebleminded for segregation away from the mass
of normality but, rather, two other groups: those in need of special,
remedial, or basic education and those highly intelligent students who
would be trained as an intellectual elite to lead society toward the
twenty-first century, into a golden age of innovative progress. The stress
had shifted to the creative use of scientific testing as an aid to postwar
progress, including the therapeutic training of the subnormal for par-
ticipation in the workforce and, if necessary, participation through shel-
tered workshops. Bureaucratization that demanded even greater unifor-
mity and the effective streaming of students toward different sections of
the labor market encompassed the education system even more.
This concentration on the testing of individual aptitude and the devel-
opment of specialized educational programs to cultivate these different
aptitudes involved an ideological shift toward an even greater individual-
ism. People who were diagnosed as in need of individuated therapeutic
treatment now confronted a maze of therapists, specialists in the minu-
tiae of disabilities, including speech therapists, occupational thera-
pists, physiotherapists, psychiatrists, child psychologists, and special ed-
ucation experts.

Deinstitutionalization and the Contemporary


Construction of Disabling Practices
The stress on education rather than on care, on training for living rather
than on long-term segregation, opened the door for a new wave of normal-
ization, accompanied this time by deinstitutionalization. These policies
52 a historical overview

and their attempted practice have confronted both people who are able-
bodied and people who are labeled disabled with a range of problems.
People who are labeled disabled face the very substantiated fear of nor-
malization that results in the continuation of everyday discrimination
accompanied by a convenient denial of special needs (see Barham 1992;
Murphy 1991). For many people who are able-bodied, deinstitutionaliza-
tion threatens not only their identity, especially when faced with the every-
day presence of those formerly hidden away, but also the disciplined and
ordered nature of their environment.
Deinstitutionalization is, on the whole, directly oriented toward the
subversion of disabling practices, yet again, these efforts are themselves
subverted by subtle, usually unrecognized processes. The general move
toward deinstitutionalization that has affected the disabled in general
will be discussed further in the concluding chapter. We deal here with the
effect of deinstitutionalization in the context of schooling, with main-
streaming, also referred to as integration or inclusion.

Mainstreaming and the Retreat from Segregation


At the forefront of the battles of the 1960s and 1970s against estab-
lished, rationalized, and intensely discriminatory bureaucratic processes
were battles to transform education systems. People sought to break out
of the cages of reason and pursue innovative educational processes. In-
novative educators reemerged on the historical scene. Ivan Illich, Paulo
Friere, A. S. Neale, and Neil Postman, among many, challenged systems
that focused on normalization through standardized curricula and stan-
dardized classroom practice. They challenged the classificatory schemes
that typecast pupils and streamed them into administratively tidy sys-
tems. In the process, they prompted the parents of children with disabili-
ties to question the educational segregation and treatment of their chil-
dren. The drive to desegregate children into the mainstream of everyday
life presented schools and the community in general with a population
that they rarely knew existed. It is a process that has been going on
around the world (see Fulcher 1989; Barton 1989).
Pressure for the integration of the so-called disabled into the nor-
mal world, into the mainstream of everyday life, challenged societys
most basic discourse: the nature of humanity. How effective was that
challenge? We turn again to an Australian example because, in Australia,
the adoption by the government of the state of Victoria of mainstreaming
The Domestication of Difference 53

as an explicit and clearly articulated policy went far further in the estab-
lishment of mainstreaming as policy and, indeed, as practice than was
the case in Britain. The Victorian program appeared to support Buckley
and Birdss comment that while the education system in the United King-
dom had been extremely slow to address the link between the social and
educational needs of people with disabilities, requiring a paradigm shift
in the way we think about people with disabilities in our society, this
shift was much further advanced in North America and Australia
(Buckley and Bird 1994, 15).12 But was policy reflected in practice? The
Australian case study highlights the links between mainstreaming and
the ongoing cultural construction of the disabled.
In 1984, the government of the state of Victoria stated its commit-
ment to provide necessary resources and . . . [its] concern with enrolling
and supporting in regular schools children who were formerly segre-
gated, or at risk of being segregated from them (Office of the Director-
General 1984, 8). That report of the ministerial review (a) explicitly
opposed a view of disability that focused on professionals categorizing
impairments by means of individually centered ascertainment, (b) explic-
itly recommended equalization of the relationship between parents and
service providers, and (c) focused on the educational system or structure
rather than on the childs named impairment. It asked that explanations
for failure be sought not in the child but in aspects of the education sys-
tem (9) and that these failures be rectified not by means of an orienta-
tion toward the special educational needs of the child because this
[approach] belongs to a deficit model but, rather, by providing addi-
tional educational requirements.
Research into the practice of mainstreaming showed that what re-
sulted was a discriminatory practice far removed from the ideals outlined
above. The formerly segregated disabled were expected to assimi-
late, though only as much as possible, to fit into the existing cultures
and practices of the mainstream schools. Few teachers regarded total
assimilation as possible but expected that specialist services would be
required on a continuous basis to compensate for assumed deficiencies.
The disabled remained marginalized, effectively segregated within the
regular classroom as an other, as integration students.
Almost without exception, the program, especially at the secondary
level, was understood as involving the use of special personnel (aides
and therapists) and technology to cope with children with a pathology
of body, behavior, or both in the regular classroom. The classroom, the
54 a historical overview

curriculum, and the timetable remained as before and, ideally, the nor-
mal children proceeded as before, unhindered by the special needs of
the integration kids who were looked after by specialist personnel and
were integrated where possible.13
As far as goals and guiding principles are concerned, the integration
policy of the Victorian government, in its opposition to categorization
and professionalism, appeared to go to the heart of discriminatory prac-
tice, seeking failure not in the child but in social structures and relation-
ships. But the machinery devised to achieve its goals and the way that
machinery was (and still is) interpreted and used by administrators and
teachers often tended to work in the opposite direction. Research into
mainstreaming in Britain revealed similar results, with teachers and ad-
ministrators operating in terms of conventional categorizations of dis-
ability and assuming that special facilities would be provided for the
integrated disabled to ensure that the normal pupils could proceed
as before.14 Indeed, many current mainstreaming practices overtly pro-
vide special educational facilities that are operated by special education
teachers within mainstream schools, what is being referred to as inclu-
sion rather than integration. The children who were formerly segre-
gated are now in the mainstream but are included as disabled stu-
dents, their medically based categorizations intact.
Policies of normalization through deinstitutionalization have been
widespread in Western societies over the last two decades.15 The existing
ideologies of normality have dominated the process of reform, the as-
sumption being that people who were formerly segregated would adapt
to the normal world, allowing the normal world to go about its busi-
ness as before. This assumption is also infused with a feeling of benevo-
lence at having allowed the disabled a pathway to assimilate into
normal society. Studies of individual mainstreamed students have
shown that some have benefited while others have not. Indeed, for many
students, to be mainstreamed as disabled students is a marked im-
provement on being segregated, as Buckley and Bird (1994) have clearly
established for Downs syndrome students in Britain. What we are
concerned with showing here is the way the mainstreaming program,
not simply as policy but as a cultural practice, serves to construct and
maintain disabilities. The examination in later chapters of the main-
streaming of deaf students will build on the analysis presented here and
will show how that mainstreaming resulted not in integration but in
isolation.
The Domestication of Difference 55

Notes
1. Water shock therapies, electric shocks, and the revolving swing chair
capable of rotating a patient up to one hundred times a minute, which ulti-
mately caused gushing of blood from ears and nose and unconsciousness
(Porter 1987, 221) were very much in vogue as the nineteenth century dawned.
William Battie was a prestigious mad-doctor of the mid-eighteenth century
who was instrumental in making the role of the mad-doctor respectable. He
rose to become President of the Royal College of Physicians (Porter 1987,
167). An admirer of Locke, Battie advocated a reasoned therapeutic optimism
in place of drugs, stressing the need for strict, humane management and declar-
ing that the Regimen in this is perhaps more important than any distemper
(quoted in Porter 1987, 207).
2. A clear example of the international approach to learning was the Quaker
surgeon John Coakley Lettsom (17441815), who studied in London and on the
Continent, graduated with a doctor of medicine from Leyden in 1769, and be-
came a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1771.
3. See the section in chapter 5 entitled Sign Language, the Clinical Gaze,
and the Consolidation of LEpes Mission in France.
4. The phrase the iron cage of bureaucracy is taken from the work of the
German sociologist Max Weber, in particular from the conclusion to his The
Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (Weber 1985). Weber closely ana-
lyzed the various forms of rational administration associated with the rise of cap-
italism in the West and pointed to the difficulties in balancing the rational and
creative aspects of leadership in the development of a just society. Anthony Gid-
dens remains the most perceptive interpreter of Webers sociology (see, in partic-
ular, Weber 1985, Introduction; Giddens 1971, 1972).
5. See Bourdieu (1984).
6. Worth noting here is the way the word retard is used colloquially today
in day-to-day conversation and all too frequently in the media to refer to anyone
perceived of as disabled. A friend recalls being at a party while in a wheelchair
after a car accident and overhearing someone inquiring, Whos the retard?
7. Note that although many people in Britain or America might look on
Australia as a distant antipodean outpost of Britain, developments in Australia
were influenced not only by developments in Britain but also by those in America
and elsewhere in the Western world. Looking to Australian case studies is not
intended to divert attention away from developments in the West but to pro-
vide pertinent examples of wider trends and developments. An imperial orienta-
tion is one that sees history as needing to focus on the center rather than on the
periphery.
8. See, for example, Winzer (1993, 26667) for the United States.
9. The etymology of the use of the word dumb to mean stupid is inte-
grally linked to the use of language. It is in the nineteenth century that dumb is
56 a historical overview

used in relation to animals to stress the lack of language in beasts and their
consequent stupiditya dumb ox (Oxford English Dictionary 1969, vol. 4).
10. See, for example, the questions on the 1933 examination paper for the
Special Teachers Certificate of the Melbourne Teachers College (Lewis 1983,
118) where these issues are explicitly raised for discussion.
11. As the work of Friedlander (1995, 1999) and Biesold (1999) has recently
shown, although the Jewish holocaust is the most publicized aspect of Hitlers
eugenically inspired policies, Hitlers programs of extermination and human ex-
perimentation also encompassed disabled people of all ethnic backgrounds.
12. It is important to note that although the development and implementa-
tion of mainstreaming policies in America and Australia was a bureaucratic mat-
ter involving government legislation, special education in Britain was left to
the professionals, highlighting the distinctly British form of bureaucratization
discussed above that involves an alliance between government and professionals
in the pursuit of rational administration. As David Kirp notes, the Warnock Re-
port of 1978 and the government white paper of 1980, Special Needs in Educa-
tion, confirmed the long-standing perception of British special education as al-
most exclusively the province of specialists, an institutionally marginal service
isolated from ordinary schools and managed by a specialist group. (Kirp 1983,
78) For a discussion of the politics of mainstreaming in Britain, see Barton and
Tomlinson (1984). For a discussion of the American mainstreaming programs
and research into their implementation, see, for example, Kirp (1983) and Tan-
ner, Linscott, and Galis (1996).
13. Note that the program was also perceived as a way of dealing more ef-
fectively with existing problems by employing aides to relieve classroom teach-
ers. Whereas the ministerial review stressed that the prime concern of the Pro-
gramme would be to increase the participation of children with impairments,
disabilities and problems in schooling in the education programmes and social
life of regular schools and with maintaining the participation of all children
(Office of the Director General 1984, 8) in these processes, in practice, the orien-
tation was toward an in-class or even out of class but in-school segregation
not only of the formerly segregated but also of the formerly integrated problem
children. So the problem children became disabled and the disabled
were identified as problem children.
14. See, for example, Gregory and Bishop (1989) and Sellars and Palmer
(1992).
15. See, for example, Murphy (1991).
PART TWO

The Cultural Construction


of Deaf People as Disabled:
A Sociological History of Discrimination
Introduction

We now turn our attention to the processes by which deaf people be-
came identified as a category of humanity, classified as disabled but
distinguished from other forms of disability. Deaf people have been and
continue to be the focus of intensive academic, educational, and medical
attention and debate. All of the processes that we have examined so far
in our historical overview of the cultural construction of the disabled
have affected deaf people: the marginalization and institutionalization of
unreason; surgical experimentation; the use of the clinical gaze to diag-
nose in terms of normality and pathology; normalization through spe-
cialized schooling; bureaucracys cages of reason; the use of various
forms of therapy; and finally, deinstitutionalization and mainstreaming.
All the processes associated with the disablement of people who are
deaf are linked to their assumed inability to communicate. The central
issue is language. We focus in particular on the use and abuse of sign
languages in the history of deaf education. Discriminatory language
policies will be shown to be particularly disabling within the context of
the school, be it segregated or mainstreamed. Philosophers, educators,
and medical professionals, often working together, have been the prime
agents of these disabling processes as, through the centuries, they have
praised, derided, transformed, and condemned the use of natural sign
languages in the education of students who are deaf. The strategic use,
misuse, manipulation, or rejection of sign languages has been central in
determining the kind and amount of access that people who are deaf
have had to the resources of their society and in determining to what de-
gree and in what ways their identities as deaf and disabled have
marginalized them and have resulted in discrimination.

59
60 a sociological history of discrimination

As sociologists, we are concerned with delving below the threshold


of consciousness. We intend to reveal the unconscious complicity of the
upper and middle classes that occurred (a) through the agency of par-
ents, teachers, academics, doctors, administrators, and therapists and
(b) in the reproduction of the structured inequalities and associated dis-
criminatory attitudes and practices that were based on the distinction be-
tween the able-bodied and the disabled and between the normal and the
pathological. In understanding these subtle cultural processes, the con-
cept of symbolic violence will be particularly important. Although we
must not ignore the overt and far from invisible violence that people
who are deaf and people labeled disabled have suffered and continue
to suffer, much of the oppression that is experienced is the result of a
violence exercised by people who are oriented toward the well-being
as they see itof the people they diagnose and care for: The gentle, in-
visible form of violence which is never recognized as such (Bourdieu
1977b, 192). Teachers, parents, educational administrators, among oth-
ers remain unaware of the consequences of their pursuit to educate peo-
ple with disabilities through the dominant culture. They become unwit-
ting agents of discriminatory structures and processes as they evaluate
the world in terms of a view of humanity that is dominated by concepts
of normality, sensibility, and linguistic competence that constantly repro-
duce the disabled and label people who are deaf as disabled. Bour-
dieu (1991) has already demonstrated how vital an exploration of lin-
guistic practices is in unearthing the parameters of symbolic violence and
how integral the uses and abuses of linguistic differences are to the re-
production of cultural and social inequalities in the context of the repro-
duction of class-based inequalities. We now pursue those processes in the
context of the cultural construction of people who are deaf as disabled
by turning to the seventeenth century when deaf people cease to be part
of a diverse population and when the concept of the deaf as a distinct
group begins to appear.
As we consider the effect of the turbulent intellectual environment of
seventeenth-century Britain on people who were deaf, we must clarify a
number of issues relating to the use at that time of sign languages and
manual alphabets by both deaf and hearing people. Although a range of
manual systems have been developed over the centuries by hearing teach-
ers of deaf students, the natural sign languages referred to throughout
the book and on which many of these manual systems were based are
as old and as ubiquitous as spoken languages. Throughout the world
Introduction 61

todayin the cities and rural areas of Western countries as well as in the
towns, cities, and villages of Asia, Africa, the Pacific, and the rest of the
non-Western worldwe find sign languages being used for communica-
tion among people who are deaf and between people who are deaf and
people who are hearing. The following statement by the philosopher of
language Walter Ong is nonsense but is nonetheless a common misappre-
hension. He writes:

Wherever human beings exist they have a language, and in every instance
a language that exists basically as spoken and heard, in the world of
sound. . . . Despite the richness of gesture, elaborated sign languages are
substitutes for speech and dependent on oral speech systems, even when
used by the congenitally deaf. (Ong 1982, 7)

Research in non-Western communities where sign languages are used


among and with people who are deaf reveals full-fledged languages that
are in no way dependent on oral speech systems. They are used as natu-
ral modes of communication.1 Records of the use of sign languages
among and with deaf people are scattered through the archives of Euro-
pean history, well into the Dark Ages and back into classical Greece and
Rome. We have no reason to assume that these sign languages were not
full-fledged languages, used in communities in the same way as they are
in places like Indonesia today.
The historical record prior to the sixteenth century is scanty as far as
the use of sign languages is concerned, but from the sixteenth century, we
find clear evidence that, in Britain, sign languages were regularly used
among people who were deaf and between deaf and hearing people. Six-
teenth-century records show that marriages involving deaf people were
performed using signs in Hereford and Leicester and that Edward Bone
and John Kempe, two deaf people, used sign language in Cornwall in
1595.2, 3 In 1720, a deaf man, Benjamin Ferrers, was examined as a wit-
ness through an Examination to be taken on the fingers upon the Re-
port on Oath of one Mr. Ralph Ruffel, who swore he has been used to
converse with him in that manner for seventeen years and upwards and
that he understood his meaning perfectly by those signs (Court of Com-
mon Pleas, London, 1720). In 1666, the diarist Samuel Pepys described
a long signed conversation between a Captain Downing and a deaf boy
about the progress of the great fire of London (Latham and Matthews
1982, 363). In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in Britain and
Europe, people who were deaf lived in a linguistic environment in which
62 a sociological history of discrimination

signing in various forms was an accepted aspect of communication


among hearing people, including communication through complex man-
ual alphabets.
Work on monastic sign languages has shown that signed systems had
been in use for a very long time. La Barre states that the silent gestural
language of European monks, designed to avoid interrupting the medita-
tions of others, an allegedly international language of travelling medieval
monks, [is] reliably dated from, at the latest, the fourth century A.D. on-
ward (La Barre 1964, 19293) and quotes Rijnberks Le langage par
signes chez les moines (1954) as his source.4 We know that, in the Mid-
dle Ages, unwanted children, especially those who were seen as having
physical problemspeople who were crippled or deaf, for example
were left on the doorsteps of monasteries to become part of the monastic
community as oblates. The deaf children would have communicated
through signing. Saint-Loup quotes St. Jerome from the fifth century,
writing that the Deaf can understand the Gospel with signs (Saint-
Loup 1993, 390), surely a reference to the formal education through sign
language of people who were deaf. Banham mentions that the monastic
sign systems were probably taught to the children in the monasteries
around the tenth century in Britain (Banham 1991, 11). Some of the ear-
liest educators of the deaf in the sixteenth century emerged from the
Spanish monasteries.5 What we do know for sure is that, in the seven-
teenth century, deaf children were being taught to read and write in at
least one abbey in France, the abbey of Saint-Jean, and that they used
sign language but did not speak (Lane 1984, 75). Very likely, this in-
volvement of the abbeys in the education through sign language of chil-
dren who were deaf was much more widespread.6
Although deaf people have developed and used manual alphabets at
least since the days of the Roman Empire, for many centuries, manual
alphabets were designed to serve the needs of the hearing community.
Their use by secret societies and by religious orders is well documented.
Only recently have manual alphabets become associated primarily and
often exclusively with people who are deaf. Manual alphabets, now
often called deaf alphabets, are no longer seen as having any relevance
for those hearing people who are not associated with the deaf commu-
nity. Although most of the one-handed alphabets in use today derive
from alphabets favored and adapted by hearing people either for teach-
ing students who are deaf to speak (with the hand held next to the
mouth) or for the development of initialized signs, the alphabets used as
Introduction 63

elements of natural sign languages appear to have been two-handed


throughout Britain and Europe as well as in America (Branson et al.
1995).7
The first evidence we have of a manual alphabet being used in Britain
for the education of deaf people is the one used by John Wallis in the
1650s, a two-handed alphabet, the same as the one used in Britain, Aus-
tralia, and New Zealand today (see Defoe 1720). Walliss records of his
teaching techniques indicate quite clearly that he used the sign language
and the two-handed alphabet that were used by deaf people. Arnold and
Farrar go as far as to claim that the two-handed alphabet was an alpha-
bet used by people who were deaf going back to Roman times (Farrar
1901).8 The manual alphabet used among deaf people in France at the
time the abbe de lEpe began his school in Paris in the mid-1700s for
students who were deaf and poor and the alphabet that was used in
America prior to the introduction of formal education for deaf students
were two-handed alphabets.
As we turn our attention to the early attempts by the new philoso-
phers to educate deaf people in Britain, we must recognize that many
of those who were deaf came to their education using a sign language
and a manual alphabet. Throughout this part of the book, we will be
examining how those who sought to educate and transform deaf peo-
ple used, abused, and devalued their languages and signing conven-
tions and, ultimately, disabled them. Some histories of deaf educa-
tion credit lEpe with having given language to people who were deaf
through his system of methodological signs rather than with having
taken language from them. Walter Ong went so far as to make the fol-
lowing claim:

Until the pedagogical techniques for introducing deaf-mutes more thor-


oughly, if always indirectly, into the oral-aural world were perfected in the
past few generations, deaf-mutes always grew up intellectually sub-normal.
Left unattended, the congenitally deaf are more intellectually retarded than
the congenitally blind. (Ong 1967, 142)

Before the development of formal education for deaf students, many peo-
ple who were deaf were neither bereft of language nor intellectually re-
tarded. As we explore the role of language policies in the education and
eventual disablement of deaf students, we must understand at all times
that the natural sign languages referred to are languages as old as any
spoken language.
64 a sociological history of discrimination

The history that follows contains a cast of thousands. Dealing as it


does with the rather neglected field of British deaf history, it involves
people who, despite their national and often international importance in
the history of deaf people and of deaf education, are unknown, even to
most people familiar with the available literature. Therefore, we will pro-
vide brief footnoted portraits of the people who feature prominently as
we proceed through the chapters in part 2.
Now we reenter the turbulent world of Britain in the seventeenth cen-
tury. Feudalism has crumbled. A centralized state under an omnipotent
monarch, greedy for wealth, has divested the church of its power, its
authority, and its lands. Because of the black death and the growth of
towns, many rural communities have become fragmented or have been
destroyed. Poverty has engulfed or threatens to engulf many. The aristoc-
racy and the merchant classes revel in increasingly elaborate luxury. And
political revolutionaries, spurred on by their newfound freedom to re-
think the shape of society, to construct the world in rational terms,
threaten those in power. The British Enlightenment is in full swing.

Notes
1. See Johnson (1994) and Branson, Miller, and Marsaja (1996, 1999).
2. Parish book of St. Martins, Leicester, for 1575.
3. Richard Carews Survey of Cornwall (1602).
4. La Barre also lists a host of other documented and reported gestural and
more generally kinesic communicative systems (La Barre 1964).
5. See Plann (1997).
6. Harlan Lane provides us with tantalizing evidence of the role of the monks
in the education of deaf people and of the presence there of fluent sign language
that was used in conjunction with fingerspelling. In 1745, M. dEtavigny, a pros-
perous businessman of La Rochelle who had a sixteen-year-old deaf son, wit-
nessed a demonstration of Jacob Pereires success in teaching deaf pupils to
speak. Harlan Lane writes of dEtavignys son, Azy:
At the time he was sixteen and attending school in a Benedictine abbey in Normandy,
where he had been for two or three years. Before that, he had spent eight years in the
abbey of Saint-Jean at Amiens, and had been taught with a half dozen other deaf chil-
dren by a deaf old monk.
Thus it appears that the first recorded teacher of the deaf in France . . . was a deaf
man himself. His name was Etienne De Fay, and he was born deaf of a noble family in
1670. At the age of five he became a pupil at the abbey of Saint-Jean. (Lane 1984, 75,
italics added)
Introduction 65

Pereire eventually visited the boy at the monastery two years later:
Pereire . . . went to the abbey, where he found an intelligent eighteen-year-old who could
read, write, and sign, but not speak. (76, italics added)

Pereire taught the boy to speak:


. . . after eleven months, according to a written testimonial, he spoke 1,300 words that
he understood, and many sentences. His speech was, however, influenced by the gram-
mar of his sign language: he put all verbs in the infinitive and transposed word order.
(76, italics added)

In the abbey, therefore, was not only, we presume, a system of monastic signs but
also sign language.

7. See Stedt and Moores (1990) for a discussion of the development of initial-
ized signs in France and America.
8. For further discussion of the evolution of the British manual alphabet and
excellent illustrations, see Hay and Lee (1994).
3
The New Philosophy, Sign Language,
and the Search for the Perfect Language
in the Seventeenth Century

[O]ne must not forget that the relations of communication


par excellencelinguistic exchangesare also relations of
symbolic power in which the power relations between
speakers or their respective groups are actualized.
Pierre Bourdieu, Language and Symbolic Power

We begin this history of the disablement of deaf people as most histories


do, in ancient times. But the main focus is on the seventeenth century in
Britain when, as outlined in chapter 2, in the battle of the sciences, the
new philosophers triumphed over their more radical nonmechanistic fel-
lows and the Royal Society provided legitimacy for rational progress. The
seventeenth century was a time when philosophers engaged directly with
deaf people in their search for an understanding of the contours of hu-
manity and of the source and scope of human creativity. Mirzoeff has re-
cently written that

The constitution of deafness as a medicalized category of the body politic,


and hence a social question, was the direct outcome of Enlightenment sen-
sualist philosophy in general and the politics of the French Revolution in
particular. (Mirzoeff 1995, 6)

66
The Search for the Perfect Language 67

Although this excerpt is a neat summary of general trends in France


and even provides a guide as we trace the way that philosophical specu-
lation on deaf people eventually gives way, at least in part, to medical
experimentation, it glosses over the broader international trends that
preceded and encompassed the essentially French Enlightenment of the
eighteenth century. In particular, it ignores the effect on the general
French and European intellectual scenes of British writers such as Bacon,
Wilkins, Dalgarno, Wallis, Hobbes, and Locke. By the time of the French
Enlightenment, the British Enlightenment was well in the past.1
Here, we will focus on those British philosophers of the seventeenth
century, of the British Enlightenment, who engaged directly with people
who were deaf and with their sign languages. All of these philosophers
were key players in the development of the Western intellectual tradition.
Some were foundation members of the Royal Society. Their writings
were influential far beyond Britains shores as they communicated freely
with philosophers throughout Europe. Little has been written about
these philosophers of language in relation to their engagement with deaf
people and with sign languages. The small amount that has been written
has often misrepresented the individuals and their work.2

Ancient and Medieval Attitudes toward


Deaf People and Sign Language
For a thousand years from Roman times to the dynamic days of the Re-
naissance when British and European philosophers rediscovered the sec-
ular philosophy of the Greeks and Romans, intellectual life and educa-
tion were conducted through the church. The philosophers of these times
sought understanding in the word of God. Knowledge came through
reading and writing. Wisdom was in the text. Their central educational
goal was to teach their pupils to read and write.
These religious philosophers and teachers saw people who were deaf
as part of Gods complex world. They did not see it as right or proper
that they should change deaf people. That kind of change would require
a miracle, the intervention of God. The fact that those who were deaf did
not speak or hear was not regarded as a problem. These clerical scholars
did not regard all language as linked to sound, not even St. Augustine,
despite the fact that many writers have claimed that he said deaf people
could not be saved because they could not hear the priests. On the
68 a sociological history of discrimination

contrary, St. Augustine saw both signing and writing as viable avenues to
knowledge and salvation (Zillman n.d.) because it was in the monaster-
ies that many sign languages developed. These sign languages were not
those used by deaf people but were sign languages developed by different
orders of monks to cope with periods of silence when speaking was not
allowed. Like the communities of feudal times and those of many non-
Western countries today, monks ways of communicating were flexible,
adapting to the demands of their order and their members. The monas-
teries produced the first teachers of deaf people, teachers who taught
through sign language. The venerable Bede, writing in the eighth century,
describes how St. John of Beverley taught a boy who was deaf to speak,
read, and write (Bede 1565, 115).3 Although John of Beverleys ability to
teach a pupil who was deaf to speak was seen as possible because he had
been canonized, the teaching of reading and writing did not require
sainthood but only that the medium of instruction be sign language, as it
had been for John of Beverley.
In the fifteenth century, the first in a long line of educators who taught
deaf students began to emerge with new aspirations for their pupils.
They were intent not only on teaching their pupils to read and write but
also to speak, performing what had formerly required miracles through
the power of human knowledge. Some of these early educators were
monks, but they were monks operating in a new environment. The edu-
cational goals of the intellectuals were changing, and the demands of
people in society were also changing as they came to expect more control
over themselves and their destinies. People no longer accepted the world
as it was but sought to change it and began to look to learned people to
transform what was formerly assumed to be God given. They now had
new aspirations for their children who were deaf.
Teaching deaf people to speak became one of the new philosophys
great achievements and was seen as a measure of the philosophers abil-
ity to change the course of human destiny. From the 1400s come the
stories of Agricola of Heidelberg teaching a person who was deaf and
mute to speak; of the Spaniards Ramrez de Carrin and Pedro de Cas-
tro teaching two members of the nobility who were deaf; of Pasch of
Brandenburg teaching two children who were deaf to speak. The first
person to systematize this new education process is usually said to have
been the Spanish monk Pedro Ponce de Len, who in the second half of
the sixteenth century, educated three children who were deaf to read,
The Search for the Perfect Language 69

St. John of Beverley was


exceedingly attentive to the
training of students whom he
maintained under his personal
charge, including a deaf boy
whom he taught to speak, read,
and write. Many believed at the
time that his success with the
deaf boy was a miracle.

write, and speak to a degree. In these endeavors, Ponce de Len was fol-
lowed in Spain by Juan Pablo Bonet, who is well known for writing a
book on the art of instructing the deaf and dumb to read (Bonet
1620, 1890). His book included drawings of a one-handed manual al-
phabet, which was to be used next to the face as an aid to teaching
articulation.4
As men sought to perform the miracle of teaching deaf people to
speak, reports of the methods used by some teachers in seventeenth-
century Spain reflect the experimental nature of the educational pro-
cess. Eriksson (1998, 32) attributes the following method to Manuel
Ramirez de Carrin; however, Plann sees it as probably an account of
a method used by the physician Pedro de Castro, an acquaintance of
de Carrin:

After the patient had been purged according to his physical constitu-
tion, or temperament, the crown of the head was shaved, then slathered
with an ointment concocted from spirits, saltpeter or purified niter, and oil
of bitter almonds. The mixture was boiled until the spirits evaporated, after
which one ounce of naphtha was mixed in well with a spatula. The salve
was applied twice daily, and especially at night before the deaf person re-
tired. In the morning, once his face was washed and his hair combed back
with an ivory comb, the patient was spoken to at the bald spot, with the re-
sult that the deaf-mute hears with clarity the voice that in no way could he
hear through the ears. (Plann 1997, 51)

In Italy, Germany, Holland, and other parts of Europe, philosophers


were also involved in achieving what had formerly required miracles.
70 a sociological history of discrimination

Language and Rationality


We make a country man dumb, whom we will not allow
to speak but by the rules of grammar.
Dryden, Dufresnoy
(quoted in Johnson 1755, s.v. country)

Before the Renaissance, people lived in what has been called a linguistic
mosaic.5 People switched from language to language and, possibly,
from mode to mode, depending on the discursive processes involved.
Spoken language was not dominated by written language.6 Each form
had its place and qualities. The written word often had magical qualities
and was far removed from everyday discourse, which was about com-
municating, not about language. Illuminated manuscripts and signed
conversations dominated many monks lives. In the medieval world at
large, signing appears to have been simply one possible discursive mode.
But from the fourteenth century, as rebellious clerics sought to ques-
tion the authority of the church and its remoteness from the people, they
turned away from the use of Latin and provided access to the word of
God through the languages of everyday life. As intellectuals turned away
from simply interpreting the word of God and sought knowledge and
progress in and through the human mind, questioning all that had previ-
ously been taken for granted as God given, they made demands on their
local languages that had never been made before. As they turned to ques-
tion all around them and began to theorize all that previously had been
simply accepted aspects of life, they also began to speculate about the ve-
hicle for their theorizing, language itself.
Language was no longer a taken-for-granted aspect of a range of
discursive processes but was the clue to the development of humanity
in its own terms, through its own efforts. Language had to satisfy the
demands of philosophy and science, not just the demands of day-to-day
interaction. The question asked of any language and any mode was Is
it an effective vehicle for creative intellectual activity? The change was
marked in many countries by the development of academies to coordi-
nate the use and development of the national language as the language
of philosophy and science, which involved the systematization of gram-
mar and spelling. This development occurred in Italy in 1582, in France
in 1635, and in Spain in 1713. Moves to do the same in Britain were
frequent from the seventeenth century onby Dryden, Defoe, and
The Search for the Perfect Language 71

Jonathan Swift, for examplebut were never successful (see Crystal


1987, 4). However, the linguistic self-consciousness of the British was
no less intense, with dictionaries and grammars making their presence
firmly felt.
As Europe entered the eighteenth century, this new consciousness of
language involved three interrelated concerns: (1) the ability to develop
and use language was seen as the fundamental dividing line between hu-
mans and animals; (2) clues to the origins and evolution of society were
thought to lie within the origins of language; and (3) inquiries about the
origin and diversification of language openly challenged the authority of
the Bible (Harris 1995b, 272).
The search for a secular, demystified rationality dominated philo-
sophical speculation. Descartess visions of a new science were based on
a view of knowledge that was dependent on individual human agency,
intelligence, and innovation. Rational, creative thought was assumed
possible, but what were to be its vehicles? How could that kind of
thought be expressed? The answer, obviously, was by means of lan-
guage. But what language? Did humanity need a special language of sci-
ence, a language that transcended the mystifications and parochialism of
the vernaculars? The intellectuals had a need to question the very nature
of language itself, to explore the ancient theories, and to generate
new ones.
Language became the key to the achievement of Descartess ideals.
The new philosophers sought the perfect language. The search for the
perfect language gave birth, as side effects, to many linguistic theories
from taxonomy in the natural sciences to comparative linguistics, from
formal languages to artificial intelligence and to the cognitive sciences
(Eco 1995, 19). The search for the perfect language played a vital part
in the history of rationality and humanism and, in the process, not only
laid the ground for the cultural construction of the disabled but also
specifically focused on and thus helped to construct the deaf as a
human category.
Two elements dominated the search for the perfect language: (1) the
belief that a universal language had existed in the past, possibly before
the fall of the Tower of Babel, and been lost; and (2) the possibility of
constructing a new, perfect, and universal language through the develop-
ment of linguistic theories. As we explore the way these philosophers
grappled with the very nature of language, we confront for the first time
the ambivalence of the hearing worlds engagement with people who
72 a sociological history of discrimination

were deaf. Suddenly, the discursive processes engaged in by and with


people who were deaf and mute became fascinating. The language of
those who were mute suddenly had a philosophical status. Was it the
original language? Did it hold the clue to the perfect language? If so,
what was the status and role of deaf people in this possibility? Was sign
language singular? Did all people who could not speak use the same nat-
ural language? Were all people who could not speak of a kind? Were deaf
people and their language singular categories? These questions describe
the issues that we begin to explore here.

Linguistics, Gesture, Deafness,


and the Perfect Language
We return now to seventeenth-century Britain, to the birth of the Royal
Society and the birth of linguistics. Semiotics was defined by Locke in
1690, in Great Britain, and . . . in the same country was published in
1668 the Essay towards a Real Character by Bishop Wilkins, the first
semiotic approach to an artificial language (Eco 1995, 6). The search
for the perfect language by Wilkins and his colleagues in the Invisible
College, later The Royal Society, would focus the gaze of the educated
public on people who were deaf and on their sign languages.

John Wilkins

Here, in our discussion of the rebirth of philosophical speculation on


language and on sign languages in particular, we again turn to John
Wilkins (16131672), the key player in the establishment of the Royal
Society in 1663 who was particularly influential in the promotion of sci-
entific activity and discussion at Oxford and then Cambridge. In 1640,
Wilkins published a work called A Discourse concerning A New World
& Another Planet, In 2 Books, The First Book The Discovery of the
New World: Or, a Discourse tending to prove, that tis probable there
may be another Habitable World in the Moon. With a Discourse of the
Possibility of a Passage thither. The Third impression. Corrected and en-
larged. The second Book, now first published. A Discourse concerning a
New Planet Tending to prove That tis probable our Earth is One of the
Planets (Wilkins 1640). The title shows how much this period was a time
of great speculation, a time when philosophers experimented with new
ideas and hoped for the achievement of wondrous results through the
new philosophy, its mathematics, and its science.7
The Search for the Perfect Language 73

John Wilkinss interest in the nature


of language led him and others to
observe the sign language of deaf
people. He eventually derived an
alphabet of the hand.

Wilkins, like his fellow philosophers, was interested primarily in the


nature of language. Language was the key to knowledge. The more
perfect the language, the more perfect the knowledge, and knowledge
was the key to the development of a new world, a world guided by
human understanding. Thus, the philosophers questioned the founda-
tions of language and knowledge. Was Aristotle correct in asserting
that sound was basic to the production and understanding of lan-
guage?8 Was speech the direct expression of the mind and the source of
all knowledge? What was the relationship among sound, the mind, and
the soul, all of which were invisible and nonphysical? How perfect
could language become as a vehicle of communication and as an ex-
pression of the wonders of the mind and the soul? What were the ori-
gins of language and was there, had there been, or could there be again
a universal language? These kinds of questions prompted these British
philosophers to become involved in the education of people who were
deaf.
In 1641, Wilkins published Mercury, or the secret and swift messen-
ger: showing how a man may with privacy and speed communicate his
thoughts to a friend at any distance (Wilkins 1641), in which he ac-
knowledged dialogues of gestures.
And tis a strange thing to behold, what Dialogues of gestures there will
passe betwixt such as are borne both deafe and dumb; who are able by this
meanes alone, to answer and reply unto one another as directly, as if they
had the benefit of speech. tis a great part of the state and Majestie, belong-
ing to the Turkish Emperor, that hee is attended by Mutes, with whom hee
may discourse concerning any private businesse, which hee would not have
others to understand. (Wilkins 1641, 11213)9
74 a sociological history of discrimination

Language was the source of understanding and communication, and


through the language of gestures, understanding was assumed to be
available to people who were deaf. Their humanity, their rationality, was
realized through signing. Wilkins continues:

It were a miserable thing, for a rationall soule, to be imprisoned in such


a body, as had no way at all to expresse its cogitations: which would be
so, in all that are borne deafe, if that which nature denied them, were not
in this respect supplied, by a second nature, custome and use. (Wilkins
1641, 113)

Wilkins then goes on to speculate about the possibility of teaching


people who are deaf to speak:

But (by the way,) tis very observable which *Vallesius [*Sacra Philos.
cap. 3] relates of Pet. Pontius a friend of us, who by an unheard of art
taught the deafe to speak. . . . First learning them to write the name of any
thing, hee should point to; and afterwards provoking them to such motions
of the tongue as might answer the severall words. tis [sic] probable, that
this invention, well followed, might be of singular use, for those that stand
in need of such helps. (Wilkins 1641, 114)10

But the focus was not on the need to teach deaf people to speak.
The issue of particular interest was the possibility of understanding
without sound, the possibility that language was not dependent on
utterance:

Though certainly that was far beyond it, (if true) which is related of an
ancient Doctor, gabriel Neale, that he could understand any word by the
meere motion of the lips, without any utterance. (Wilkins 1641, 114)

Wilkins also poses the possibility of gestural language being capable


of infinite variety, of infinite signification, a vehicle for creative expres-
sion like any language:

The particular ways of discoursing by gestures, are not to be numbered,


as being of almost infinite variety, according as the severall fancies of men
shal impose significations, upon all such signes or actions, as are capable of
sufficient difference. (Wilkins 1641, 115)

And in this exploration of the discursive potential of gestures, Wilkins


turns his attention to antiquity, particularly to evidence of the use of fin-
gerspelling and counting on the hands:
The Search for the Perfect Language 75

But some there are of more especiall note for their use and antiquity. Such
is that upon the joynts and fingers of the hand, commonly stiled Arthro-
logia, or Dactylologia, largely treated of by the venerable *Bede [*Lib. de
loquel per gestum digitorum sive de indigitatione], *Pierius [*Hiero-
glyphic. lib. 37.c.I. & c Clius Antiq. lect. l. 23.cap.12. Satyr 10.], and oth-
ers. In whom you may see, how the Ancients were wont to expresse any
number, by the severall postures of the hands and fingers; The numbers
under a hundred, were denoted by the left hand, and those above, by the
right hand. Hence Iuvenal, commending Pylias for his old age, says that hee
reckoned his yeeres upon his right hand. (Wilkins 1641, 116)

Wilkins then goes on to derive an alphabet on the hand, which is ex-


pressed by pointing to different parts of the fingers and hand. The five
vowels and the consonants T, Y, and Z correspond to the current two-
handed alphabet used in Britain and Australia today, but the source of
his alphabet is unknown.
The very nature of language, of how humanity could construct mean-
ing and communicate understanding, was being questioned, and the
speculations of influential philosophers like Wilkins were recognizing a
role for people who were deaf in the new rational world that had been
denied them by Aristotelian views of language that were integrally linked
to sound.

Kenelm Digby

A few years later, another book appeared with an account of deaf people
being taught to speak. In 1644, Sir Kenelm Digby published Of Bodies,
and of Mans Soul. To Discover the Immortality of Reasonable Souls.
with two Discourses Of the Powder [sic] of Sympathy, and Of the Vege-
tation of Plants.Animae naturam, absque totius natura, Sifficienter
cognosci posse existimas? Plato in Phoedr (Digby 1645). The book was
published in London the next year and reprinted many times over the
next twenty-five years. It contained a treatise on the nature of sound.
Digby hypothesized that sound should be seen as motion. Again, sound
and speech were stripped of their mystery:

[I]t cannot be denyd but that hearing is nothing else, but the due per-
ception of motion: and that motion and sound are in themselvs one and the
same thing, though expressd by different names, and comprised in our
understanding under different notions. Which proposition seems to be yet
76 a sociological history of discrimination

Physicist, naval commander, and


philosopher, Sir Kenelm Digby
published a book entitled Of Bodies,
and of Mans Soul, in which he
suggested that reception of sound
through the ear was not a prerequisite
for the acquisition of language.

further convinced, by the ordinary experience of perceiving musick by me-


diation of a stick: for, how should a deaf man be capable of musick by hold-
ing a stick in his Teeth, whose other end lies upon the Vial or Virginals;
were it not that the proportional shaking of the stick (working a like a danc-
ing in the mans head) make a like motion in his brain, without passing
through his ear; and consequently, without being otherwise sound, then as
bear motion is sound. (Digby 1645, 307; Digbys italics)

In support of his treatise, Digby gives an account of a voyage to


Spain in 1623 with the then Prince of Wales, where they saw the effects
of education by a Spanish monk, assumed by Digby to be Bonet, who
had taught a nobleman who was deaf (Luis de Velasco) to speak. The
family had tried medical cures, but those cures had failed.11 The fact
that the reception of sound through the ear was not seen as a prerequi-
site for the acquisition of language was vital for the education of people
who were deaf. What was vital for the philosophy of language was
the linguistic potential that was seen to lie in the use of gestures and
particularly in the development of manual alphabets that were not tied
to sound.

John Bulwer

In the same year, 1644, John Bulwer published the first of two books
dealing in part with the education of the deaf. The first book was CHI-
ROLOGIA OR THE NATURAL LANGUAGE of the Hand. Com-
posed of the Speaking Motions, and Discoursing Gestures thereof.
The Search for the Perfect Language 77

John Bulwer, an English physician,


believed that the language of the hand
was the one language that was natural
in all men especially for the deafened
in the use of a manual alphabet.

whereunto is added Chironomis: or the Art of Manual Rhetoricke. Con-


sisting of the Natual Expressions, digested by Art in the HAND, as the
Chiefest Instrument of Eloquence, by HISTORICAL MANIFESTOs,
exemplified Out of the Authentique Registers of Common Life, and civil
Conversations: with types or CHYROGRAMS: along-withd for illustra-
tions of this Argument. The second book was Philocophus: or the deafe
and dumbe mans friend, exhibiting the philosophical verity of that sub-
tle art, which may inable one with an observant Eie, to heare what any
man speaks by the moving of his lips. UPON THE SAME Ground,
wit the advantage of an Historical Exemplification, apparently proving,
That a Man Borne Deafe and Dumbe, may be taught to Heare the sound
of words with his Eie, and thence learn to speake with his tongue by J. B.
named the Chirosopher. The titles are very important because they reveal
the complicated range of philosophical issues that led these philosophers
to become involved with the education of people who were deaf. Deaf
people provided an opportunity for these philosophers to put their theo-
ries to the test. In the society at large, their successes, or apparent suc-
cesses, in teaching deaf people to speak were seen as evidence of the
new philosophy and the new sciences miraculous powers. Like the tales
of travelers returned from voyages across the seas to newly discovered
worlds, the tales of deaf people being taught to speak were received with
excitement and awe.
But although teaching people who were deaf to speak generated par-
ticular excitement, popular attention was also focused on the wider spec-
ulation about the nature of language and on its relationship to speech.
Communication through gesture and the skills in gestural language
78 a sociological history of discrimination

developed by deaf people also generated interest. People who were deaf
became a talking point. An extract from Samuel Pepyss diary for 9 No-
vember 1666 describes a dancing party at a Mrs. Pierces in London at the
time of the great fire of London. During the evening, a youth appears who
is deaf and who carries out a long signed conversation with a Captain
Downing about the progress of the fire. Downing sends him off to get
more information, and the youth reappears shortly with detailed expla-
nations of the progress of the fire (Latham and Matthews 1982, 363).
Pepys and others comment on the signing and are intrigued by it, specifi-
cally in relation to their philosophical speculation on the nature of lan-
guage. Pepyss diaries also indicate the excitement of the time with general
speculation on language. An entry for 11 January 1664 reads: Thence to
the coffee house, whither comes Sir W. Petty and Captain Grant, and we
fell in talk . . . of Musique, the Universall Characterart of Memory.
(12). In footnote 4, the editor adds the following note in relation to Uni-
versall Character: The attempt to produce a non-mathematical system
of characters or symbols which could represent words in any language
a favourite project of the virtuoso of the time. The signs would represent
not sounds (as in shorthand), but ideas. Pepys mentions a number of
dinners with Wilkins and, later, would become close to Wallis.
On the 30 November 1667, Samuel Pepys sat next to Wilkins at a din-
ner and wrote how they were talking of the universall speech, of which
he hath a book coming out, did first inform me how man was certainly
made for society. . . . And he says were it not for speech, man would be a
very mean creature (Latham and Matthews 1982, vol. 8, 554). In 1668,
Wilkins published An Essay towards a real character and a philosophical
language. He particularly acknowledged the work of two fellow mem-
bers of the Royal Society, Wallis and William Holder.
Spurred on by the writings of Wilkins, Bulwer, Digby, and others,
other philosophers became involved in debating the link between lan-
guage acquisition and the education of deaf people as well as between
language acquisition and the development of methods for teaching peo-
ple who were deaf. Three other British philosophers of the seventeenth
century were of particular importance in laying the ground for the segre-
gation of the deaf as a category of humanityWallis, Holder, and
Dalgarno.
At this time, education was not widespread. Most people were illiter-
ate. Only the nobility and wealthy commoners received an education. So
why educate deaf people? True, these philosophers mainly were involved
The Search for the Perfect Language 79

with the education of the deaf children of the nobility or the wealthy.
Those were the people who could afford to pay and who were eager
for their deaf children to be educated like their other children. The teach-
ing of deaf people to speak was also, as we have mentioned, a measure
of the new learnings great achievements, of its ability to change the
course of human destiny. But among these seventeenth-century British
philosophers, not money nor philanthropy nor the performance of mira-
cles made the education of the deaf so fascinating.

Sign Language and the Education of Deaf People


John Wallis and the British Tradition of Deaf Education

John Walliss contributions are of particular importance. He laid the


ground for the development of deaf education through the eighteenth
and nineteenth centuries in Britain. Salvin Professor of Geometry at Ox-
ford University, Wallis was one of the greatest mathematicians of his day.
In 1653, he published De Loquela, sive Sonorum Formatione, tractatus
Grammatico-Pysicus (Treatise of Speech) in which he speculated on the
production of sound through speech, paying particular attention to the
physical processes involved. He adopted a far from mystical approach to
speech, seeing speech simply as a physical process through which lan-
guage was expressed. Wallis tells us that the father of Daniel Whaley,
a boy who was deaf, read the book and concluded that Wallis might
be able to teach his son to speak, so he engaged Wallis as his sons tutor.
The foundations for the pedagogical development of deaf education in
Britain were being laid.
In 1662, in a letter to the philosopher Robert Boyle, Wallis mentions
the problems involved in teaching a person who is deaf when there is no
other Language to express it in, but that of Dumb Signs (quoted in
Locke 1706, 29). Wallis was underestimating the scope of sign language,
but this misjudgment was not surprising, and we also do not know
how well Daniel could sign. Wallis saw this limitation, however, as a
challenge:

Considering . . . from how few and despicable Principles the whole body
of Geometry, by continual consequence, is inforced; if so fair a Pile and
curious Structure, may be raisd, and stand fast upon so small a Bottom,
I could not think it incredible, that we might attain some considerable
Success in this Design, how little soever we had first to begin upon; and
80 a sociological history of discrimination

Viewing speech simply as a physical


process through which language was
expressed, John Wallis became involved
in teaching deaf students to read and
write, and to express themselves either
through signs or speech.

from those litle [sic] Actions and Gestures, which have a kind of Natural
Significancy in them, we might, if well managed, proceed gradualy to the
Explication of a Compleat Language [through speech]. . . . (quoted in Locke
1706, 33)

So Wallis saw those little actions and gestures, as he called them, as


a basis for the development of a good education and began to shape its
process:

As to that of Speech, I must first, by the most significant Signs I can,


make him to understand in what Posture and Motion I would have him
apply his Tongue, Lips and other Organs of Speech. . . .
As to that of Teaching him the Language, I must, (as Mathematicians do
from a few Principles first granted) from that little Stock (that we have to
begin upon) of such Actions and Gestures as have a kind of Natural Signif-
icancey, or some few Signs, which himself had before taken up to express
his Thoughts as well as he could, Proceed to Teach him what I mean by
somewhat else. . . .. (quoted in Locke 1706, 3839)

Wallis was therefore stressing the need for education above all. He
was saying quite clearly that there was no point in teaching articulation
without teaching the pupil to read and write, without teaching him our
language. By our language in this context, he meant English, Latin,
and other written languages. Later, when describing his teaching meth-
ods, he wrote:

It will be convenient, all along, to have Pen, Ink and Paper ready at
Hand, to write down in Words, what you signifie to him by Signs; and cause
Him to write, (or shew him how to write) what He signifies by Signs. Which
The Search for the Perfect Language 81

way (of signifying their Mind by Signs) Deaf persons are often very good at.
And we must endeavour to learn their Language, (if I may so call it) in order
to teach them ours: By shewing them what Words answer to their Signs.
(quoted in Locke 1706, 58)

Wallis also mentions the use of the manual alphabet:

Twill next be very Convenient (because Pen and Ink is not always at
Hand) that he be taught, How to design each Letter, by some certain Place,
Position, or Motion of a Finger, Hand, or other part of the Body; (which
may serve instead of Writing.) As for instance, The Five Vowels a e i o u; by
pointing to the Top of the Five Fingers: And the other Letters b c d, & c. by
such other Place or Posture of a Finger, or otherwise, as shall be agreed
upon. (quoted in Locke 1706, 47)

We now know that the alphabet that Wallis used was, in fact, the al-
phabet used in Australia and Britain today. He certainly did not invent
it.12 Alphabets intrigued these philosophers of language. They were con-
cerned with the relationship between the letters and sound, with the part
they played in the generation of meaning, and with their potential in the
search for the perfect, universal languagea set of characters, a classi-
fication system, and a grammar that would overcome the parochial,
culture-bound qualities of the worlds spoken and written languages.
Daniel Whaley was not Walliss only pupil. In the early 1660s, Wallis
also taught some speech to one other boy who was deaf, Alexander
Popham. Popham had previously been taught to speak by William
Holder but had lost his speech after having been away from Holder for
two years. Wallis claimed to have taught Popham to speak and made no
reference to Holders previous work. A battle ensued through the pages
of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society (Holder 1678;
Wallis 1678).13 But whatever the rights or wrongs of the case, it was Wal-
lis who was to have a lasting influence on the education of students who
were deaf.
Wallis was not primarily involved with performing scientific miracles
by making deaf people speak. He did not teach all his pupils to speak
only Whaley and Popham. In a letter to a Mr. Thomas Beverley in the
1690s, Wallis recalls that when teaching Some other Deaf Persons, I
have not attempted teaching them to Speak; but only so as (in good
Measure) to understand a Language, and to express their Mind (toler-
ably well) in Writing (quoted in Locke 1706, 45). We can assume from
the previous quotations, that Wallis taught these pupils through finger-
spelling and their language of signs.
82 a sociological history of discrimination

William Holder felt that a thorough


education in reading and writing was
necessary in order for deaf people to
become proficient in lipreading
and speech.

William Holder

William Holder was also an influential member of the Royal Society and
a close colleague of Wilkins. In 1669, Holder published Elements of
Speech: an Essay of Enquiry into The Natural Production of LETTERS:
with an APPENDIX Concerning Persons Deaf and Dumb (Holder
1669). Unlike Wallis, Holder was primarily concerned with teaching
deaf people to speak. He looked to the design of an effective phonetic al-
phabet as a basis for teaching articulation. Holder writes that, in 1659,
he had been given a deaf person, Alexander Popham, to teach. The pupil
lived with Holder in his house (Holder 1694, 1056), and in this context,
Holder developed his method and experimented with alphabets. He tried
to design a natural alphabet:

[T]he chief design here intended by this account of the Natural alphabet,
is, to prepare a more easie and expediate way to instruct such as are Deaf
and Dumb onely by consequence of want of hearing (by shewing them the
proper figures of the motions of the Organs, whereby Letters are formed) to
be able to pronounce all Letters, Syllables, and words, and in good measure
to discern them by eye, when pronounced by another. (Holder 1669, 15)

Holder was as concerned with teaching lipreading as well as with


teaching speech and saw the effective use of lipreading as dependent on
a competent knowledge of the language gained through a thorough
education in reading and writing:

In short, though it be impossible for a Deaf person, by his eye to distin-


guish letters singly spoken, (as it is likewise in words equivocal spoken, and
The Search for the Perfect Language 83

letters whispered, to those that hear;) Yet in tract of speech, as a dubious


word is easily known by the coherence of the rest; and a Dubious letter by
the whole word; so may a deaf person, having obtained a competent knowl-
edge of the language, and assisted by Sagacity, by some evident word dis-
cerned by his eye know the sense, and by the sense other words, and by the
words the obscurer letters; and so notwithstanding this difficulty objected,
make good use of this Institution, Language being defined, a Connecxion
of the best signes for communication, and written language, visible signes
of the signes audible; and the elements of each repectively letter spoken or
written and the correspondence and mutual assistance of each to other,
being such, as in the foregoing discourse is more fully shewn; you have a
great help by shewing Letters and words written, to conduct a Deaf person
on, in exercising him to expres the same by pronunciation; and what foever
[sic] you gain upon him this way, will be retained and made use of in the
other. (Holder 1669, 131)

Holder, unlike Wallis, was primarily concerned with teaching speech


but regarded a knowledge of written language as a vital pathway to
learning speech. He concentrated much of his attention on alphabets and
gave instructions for the development of a manual alphabet for teaching
articulation. For Holder, the alphabet was integrally linked to speech.
He intended to transform the existing two-handed alphabet for teach-
ing purposes and to develop special signs to enhance lipreading and
articulation.

[Y]ou need to shew him the connection between the written alphabet
and the true alphabet of nature by rewriting the words and making signs to
show the correct pronunciation, show him the position of the tongue, lips
etc, by example. When he knows the alphabet then teach him the finger al-
phabet indicates vowels same as we use today, then come down a joint for
b, c, d, f, g, use both sides of the hand in this way, he should then learn to
converse on his fingers. Then move onto combination of letters and even
signs for whole words so that it is easy to prompt him secretly. (Holder
1669, 131)

Determining what effect Holder had on developments in the educa-


tion of children who were deaf is difficult, but clearly, Walliss method
and attitude dominated future developments, in particular, his use of fin-
gerspelling and natural sign language as well as his separation of speech
training from general education. Holder laid claim to being the first to
educate a person who was deaf to speak and accused Wallis of making
84 a sociological history of discrimination

false claims in his letter to Boyle. The competition to be the first with
respect to developing any part of a universal language and contributing
to the related field of deaf education was very fierce. Holder was not
the only person who accused Wallis of making false claims. George
Dalgarno, a Scotsman who lived much of his life in Oxford and died
there, felt particularly cheated not only by Wallis but also by Wilkins.

The Senses, People Who Are Deaf,


and the Acquisition of Knowledge
George Dalgarno

George Dalgarno was a Scottish schoolmaster. He taught at a private


school in Oxford but was in close contact with members of the Univer-
sity. His work focused on the development of a universal language, and
he saw himself primarily as a grammarian.14 In 1661, he published his
book on a universal language titled Ars Signorum, vulgo character uni-
versalis et lingua philosophica (Dalgarno 1661). He felt that Wilkins had
stolen many of his ideas, but little evidence exists to support this claim.
Then in 1680, he published Didascalocophus or The Deaf and Dumb
mans Tutor, to which is added A Discourse of the Nature and number
of Double Consonants: Both which Tracts being the first (for what the
Author knows) that have been published upon either of the Subjects
(Dalgarno 1680). What is particularly interesting about this book is the
attitude that Dalgarno takes toward the potential education of people
who are deaf. Chapter 1, titled A Deaf Man as capable of understand-
ing an expressing a Language, as a Blind, begins in true Lockean fash-
ion: Tho the soul of man come into the world, Tabula Rasa; yet is it
withal, Tabula Cerata; capable thro study and discipline, of having many
fair, and goodly images, stampt upon it (Dalgarno 1680, 1). In chap-
ter 2, titled A Deaf man capable of as Early Instruction in a language as
a Blind, he states:

Taking it for granted. That Deaf people are equal, in the faculties of Ap-
prehension, and memory, not only to the Blind; but even to those that have
all their senses: and having formerly shewn; that these faculties can as eas-
ily receive, and retain, the Images of things, by the conveiance of Figures,
thro the Eye, as the Sounds thro the Ear: It will follow, That the Deaf man
is, not only, as capable; but also, as soon capable of Instruction in Letters,
as the blind man. And if we compare them, as to their intrinsick powers,
The Search for the Perfect Language 85

has the advantage of him too; insomuch as he has a more distinct and per-
fect perception, of external Objects, then [sic] the other. . . . (Dalgarno
1680, 8)

Dalgarno constantly asserts the superiority of people who are deaf.


However, he views the ability to take in information through the eye, in-
cluding lipreading, as difficult and inadequate. Thus, lipreading is seen as
less effective than fingerspelling. Dalgarno also asserts that people who
are deaf face no real barrier in learning to speak. Dalgarno is somewhat
skeptical of Kenelm Digbys claims about a Spanish boy who was deaf
having been taught to recognize all letters by lipreading and to reproduce
them. Dalgarno concerns himself with devising the most effective way
to teach reading and writing to people who are deaf. He stresses the need
to learn the alphabet above all things, seeing fingerspelling as being

the readiest, so it may become the quickest way of intercourse and commu-
nication with dumb persons. . . . [A]nother piece of useful care will be,
to keep him from any other way of Signing, than by Letters. . . . Add
to this; that his familiars about him be officious in nothing, but the
intercourse of letters, that is, either by Grammatology, or Dactylology.
(Dalgarno 1680, 47)

Like other educators later in the history of the deaf education, Dal-
garno wanted to use fingerspelling only to ensure that people who were
deaf gained knowledge of English and of the written word. Unlike Wal-
lis, he devalued signing. In chapter 8, Of an Alphabet upon the Fingers
(Dalgarno 1680), Dalgarno designs his own manual alphabet, with all
letters on the palm of one hand and with combinations of letters such as
th indicated by touching part of the palm with the fingernail rather than
with the flesh of the finger. This alphabet was never adopted.
But in Dalgarnos work in particular, we see an orientation toward
people who are deaf that does not regard either their deafness or their
muteness as being a barrier to education and the effective acquisition of
knowledge. Although Dalgarno devalued the linguistic qualities of sign-
ing, he did not devalue deaf people themselves. His work showed that
philosophy itself does not necessarily disable. The philosophical specula-
tion of seventeenth-century Britain generated a range of interpretations
of both deafness and sign language. Which interpretations came to dom-
inate the wider ideological evaluation of deaf people and their languages
was influenced by economic, political, medical, and pedagogical issues
beyond the concerns of the new philosophers of language.
86 a sociological history of discrimination

A Note on Sign Language and the Search


for the Perfect Language in France
Nearly a century after Wallis and Holder had stirred the interests of the
Royal Society with their achievements in educating deaf pupils, Jacob
Rodriguez Pereire amazed the Royal Academy of Sciences in Paris with
his achievements in educating his student Saboureux de Fontenay. At the
same time, intrigued by the signing of his deaf pupils, the abbe de lEpe
was exploring the linguistic and educational potential of manual com-
munication. We will focus on Pereire and, particularly, on lEpe in more
detail in the following chapter. Here, we simply draw the links between
the work of the British philosophers of Britains seventeenth-century
enlightenment and the speculations of their French counterparts a
century later.
LEpe was spurred on in the development of his educational program
for the people of Paris who were deaf and poor, not only by his priestly
concern for their moral and spiritual well-being but also through his
philosophical interest in the nature and scientific potential of language.
Building on the work of his contemporariesDiderot (17131784) and
Condillac (17141780) in particularlEpe was convinced that, in the
sign language of his pupils, he had discovered the basis for the develop-
ment of a universal language, that Holy Grail that had obsessed the
English in the previous century and that was the talk of the Salons in
Paris in the mid-eighteenth century.15 He considered natural sign lan-
guage to be limited, unsuitable as an educational medium, and set out to
develop his universal language, his system of methodological signs,
through the application of the new linguistics, the emerging rational,
scientific knowledge of grammar.

The Deaf as a Category of Humanity


The competition among Wallis, Holder, and Dalgarno in seventeenth-
century Britain and, indeed, between Pereire and lEpe in eighteenth-
century France was evidence of the integral role that the education of
deaf people had come to play in the development of the philosophy of
language. Although people who were deaf were in many ways pawns
in an intellectual game, pawns in the development of a new ideologi-
cal approach to language and its potential, they were nonetheless being
distinguished as a category of humanity with particular qualities and
The Search for the Perfect Language 87

aptitudes, a categorization that involved them as deaf people. Their deaf-


ness and muteness was seen increasingly as the essence of their subjectiv-
ity. Deafness, once simply a puzzling aspect of Gods order, had now be-
come a condition that marked off an entire group of players in the chess
game of life. The deaf had become a category of humanity, pawns to
be moved around the board to suit the strategies of the philosophical
players. Deafness had become a human condition, and the deaf were
singular.
In later centuries, people who were deaf were to be reduced to being
yet another group of disabled people, not deemed worthy of any spe-
cial attention, rather, requiring therapy, along with burgeoning cate-
gories of the disabled. But in seventeenth-century Britain, they were
defined as a category as they also were to be in eighteenth-century
France. They were constituted as a category because of the role they were
seen to play in the development of an understanding of human rational-
ity. That human knowledge, indeed, could overcome deafness and mute-
ness and could teach deaf people to speak was a triumph for human rea-
son. That people who were deaf could learn to speak or that they, indeed,
could express themselves through signed language was also a measure of
human reason and of the ingenuity of humanity.
But the battle lines were forming for the debates between manualists
and oralists two hundred years later. For some philosophers, Aristotles
claims that language was tied to speech rendered signing secondary to
speech, a poor imitation. Speech and sound were spiritual and creative.
Gesture was simply a material, nonspiritual imitation of speech (com-
pare Mirzoeff 1995, 19). For others such as Dalgarno, gesture was as
meaningful a communicative medium as speech. In later chapters, we
will consider the battles that ensued between the manualists and oralists
as deafness ceased to be conceptualized as a viable and effective human
state and was diagnosed as a pathology, a condition to be therapeutically
transformed.
At the beginning of the eighteenth century in Britain, people who were
deaf were therefore considered to be as capable of reason as anyone. If
they were perfectly educable and capable of being considered reasonable
beings, what forces were at work that would cast them beyond the pale
and categorize them as disabled? The answer lies in the processes ex-
plored in chapters 1 and 2: People who were deaf, along with a host of
others, were encompassed by the cosmological tyranny of a scientific dis-
course that distinguished between the normal and the pathological.
88 a sociological history of discrimination

Deafness became a condition not simply to be lived with but to be trans-


formed. And the transformation of deaf people, like their education in
the seventeenth century and most of the eighteenth century, became
firmly identified with progress. They were to be defined not simply as
other but as pathological in a world that no longer reveled in differ-
ence but, rather, feared it. The transformation of the pathological was to
become a measure of humanitys control over its own destiny, a measure
of the power of the scientific method.
The ultimate responsibility for the diagnosis and treatment of those
whose differences were interpreted as threatening the rational order fell
to an increasingly specialized set of professionals. As the nineteenth cen-
tury dawned, so too did the professional society, a society dominated ide-
ologically by experts disciplined in professions, in the practical applica-
tion of the fruits of science, in the ideological practice of scientism. In
relation, especially, to the education and treatment of deaf people in
Britain, the roots of that professionalism lie in the transformation of deaf
education during the eighteenth century wherein deaf education ceased
to be associated primarily with philosophical speculation and became a
business.

Notes
1. With respect to the development of rational secular thought,
[t]he English . . . were the first bearers of the torch. In that land with many Protestant
sects the hand of the church was lighter, and political issues were attenuated by the
Glorious Revolution of 1688. The oft raised question, whether England had an En-
lightenment (meaning in the eighteenth century) is thus otiose. It was already a fact.
(Crocker 1995, 3)

2. Harlan Lanes representation of Wallis is a case in point (Lane 1988,


1036). The neglect or misinterpretation of this period in the education of deaf
people has been rectified to some degree very recently by the publication of
Jonathan Res I See a Voice (1999). Res philosophical analysis of these
seventeenth-century British philosophers appeared when this section of our man-
uscript was complete. Our treatment of these philosophers and their engagement
with people who were deaf is based on primary archival research, particularly in
the Farrar Collection in the John Rylands Library in Deansgate in Manchester
(see Branson and Miller 1998b). Our interpretation is also sociological rather
than philosophical.
3. Bede (Bda) (675735) was a British Benedictine monk who was placed
under the guardianship of Benedict Bishop, the Abbot of Wearmouth, when he
was seven years old. A historian, biographer, and generally the most learned man
The Search for the Perfect Language 89

of his time, he was ordained by Bishop John of Beverley and spent most of his life
at St. Pauls at Jarrow.
4. See Plann (1997) for an in-depth discussion of Bonet.
5. A concept introduced at a session of International Association of Applied
Linguistics (AILA) 1996 in Finland by a discussant, Professor Yamuna Kachru of
the department of linguistics at the University of Illinois, who pointed out that, in
many non-Western situations, literate and nonliterate languages coexist perfectly
naturally and effectively in a linguistic mosaic as people switch from language
to language depending on the discursive processes involved. The Western model
remains an essentially monolingual model insofar as people are assumed to have
a first language, even in a multilingual situation. One language is assumed to
be primary.
6. Note here that the concept of a linguistic mosaic supports the argu-
ment that writing systems did not necessarily develop to represent speech (see
Olson 1996, 65ff.). According to Olson, [I]t may be argued . . . that writing sys-
tems were created not to represent speech, but to communicate information. The
relation to speech is at best indirect (Olson 1996, 68).
7. We have included the full titles of works by Wilkins and others in the
main text. They not only explain, far more than the titles of today, the contents
of the book but also teach us much about the intellectual culture of their time.
8. In the fourth century B.C., Aristotle said, Men that are born deaf are in
all cases also dumb; that is, they can make vocal sounds, but they cannot speak
(536b.34 [Thompsons numbering]). Regarding the nature of language, Aristo-
tle observed:
Voice and sound are different from one another; and language differs from voice and
sound . . . language is the articulation of vocal sounds by the instrumentality of the
tongue. Thus, the voice and larynx can emit vocal or vowel sounds; the tongue and the
lips make non-vocal or consonantal sounds; and out of these vocal and non-vocal
sounds language is composed. (535a.27535b.line 4)

He therefore assumed that language is linked directly to the various physical abil-
ities required to produce a range of particular sounds. As we shall see, nearly two
thousand years later, the effect of Aristotle on the evaluation of people who were
deaf and of their language was profound.
9. The attendants who were deaf and mute in the Turkish court are also
mentioned in Sibscota (1670). The name George Sibscota appears to be a nom de
plume. The author is unknown. The book The Deaf and Dumb Mans Dis-
course. . . . is, in fact, a translation of an essay in Latin included in a collection of
select dissertations by Anthony Deusing, professor of medicine in Groningen,
Holland, published in 1660.
10. See Vallesii (1608). Pet. Pontius is Ponce de Len.
11. As Susan Plann points out, the description was full of inaccuracies:
Manuel Ramrez de Carrin was who Digby met and who was teaching Luis de
Velasco, and de Carrin was not a priest. (Plann 1997, 6366).
90 a sociological history of discrimination

12. The source of the alphabet is unknown. It was not, contrary to Lanes
claim (Lane 1984, 1056), the alphabet developed by Dalgarno.
13. For a succinct discussion of the controversy, see Scott (1938, 8587).
14. For a discussion of Dalgarnos work on the development of a universal
language, see Eco (1995, ch. 11) and Stewart (1854).
15. See Diderot (1751). LEpe was particularly influenced by the philo-
sophy of Condillac, who in turn, was the main interpreter of Locke to the mid-
eighteenth-century French intellectual scene.
4
The Formalization of Deaf Education
and the Cultural Construction
of the Deaf and Deafness
in the Eighteenth Century

As the education of people who were deaf became more formalized


through the eighteenth century, the confrontation between the univer-
sal tongue of knowledge and power and the vulgar, natural language
of deaf people became more complex and more overt.

[N]either Bernard nor the archers nor I myself could understand what she
was saying in her peasant tongue. For all her shouting, she was as if mute.
There are words that give power, others that make us all the more derelict,
and to this latter category belong the vulgar words of the simple, to whom
the Lord has not granted the boon of self-expression in the universal
tongue of knowledge and power. (Eco 1984, 330)

The philosophical speculation of the seventeenth century that had


found deaf people and signing so intriguing gradually gave way to less
mystical, more pragmatic orientations toward people who were deaf
and toward their education. The debates about the links between lan-
guage and sound as well as between language and knowledge continued
to involve speculation about the signing conversations of people who
were deaf, but they were being encompassed by new views of humanity.

91
92 a sociological history of discrimination

Deaf people were increasingly thought of as other: other than human


beings who had all five senses; as an other, a unitary category; and as
other than rational, in need of rationalization.
But no singular process was at work. According to followers of Locke,
who considered human beings as being tabulae rasae at birth on which
knowledge gained through the senses would be inscribed, people who
were deaf were capable of as much education as their senses would
allow. Dalgarno maintained that no educational limitations were im-
posed by their sensibility. For some, sign language was an adequate and
effective avenue to knowledge; for others, access to speech was essential.
For some, people who were deaf were forever deprived of effective lan-
guage and effective intellectual development; for others, their develop-
ment was assured through sign language, through the effective acquisi-
tion of spoken and written language, or both. According to those who
followed Leibnitz, people who were deaf retained more of their mystery
because they were seen not as being tabulae rasae but as possessing all
the innate ideas bestowed on human beings.1 The goal was to unlock
their innate ideas and give them the opportunity to effectively express
and develop those ideas. Again, debate raged as to whether giving them
this opportunity required teaching them speech and lipreading as well as
whether instruction should be through speech or could be through sign.
Nevertheless, as with madness, the orientation was toward their normal-
ization through treatment, their rationalization through education. The
deaf per se were being defined as the embodiment of elements of unrea-
son and, therefore, in need of scientific intervention.
Here, we continue to concentrate on the development of deaf edu-
cation in Britain. We explore the continuities between the earlier philo-
sophical orientations that were documented in the last chapter and later
developments through the eighteenth century and into the nineteenth cen-
tury. We also, albeit briefly, compare these British processes with those in
France. In eighteenth-century France, developments would take place that
were to affect the education and wider conceptualization and treatment of
deaf people throughout the world. These French developments have been
well documented, and although our interpretation of those developments
differs somewhat from the interpretations offered previously, we reflect
on the French scene here primarily to place the British developments in a
wider historical context. Above all, we intend to show how philosophical
and pedagogical developments on both sides of the Channel reflected and
contributed to the idea that people who were deaf were disabled.
The Formalization of Deaf Education 93

But speculation on the educability of deaf people was not confined


to the meetings and transactions of the Royal Society. Educators such
as Wallis and Henry Baker were not alone in developing the images of
deaf people and their intellectual potential. The literary representations
of people who were deaf, mute, or both that fired the public imagina-
tion of the early eighteenth century in the popular works of Walliss
brother-in-law, also Henry Bakers father-in-law, Daniel Defoe, linked
Walliss philosophical experiments in the later-seventeenth century and
Bakers therapeutic and educational achievements in the mid-eighteenth
century.

Daniel Defoe, Duncan Campbell, and Dickory Cronke


Daniel Defoe (1661?1731), a popular novelist, journalist as well as
political and religious activist who was imprisoned and placed in the
stocks for his radical views and for debt, was intrigued by deafness and
muteness as well as by the linguistic and educational potential of signs.2
Through his books, fictional and nonfictional, and his journal articles,
Defoe popularized the philosophical issues that had filled the Trans-
actions of the Royal Society.3 Literate people throughout Britain and
beyond waited eagerly for his next forthright contribution to the philo-
sophical, political, and religious debates of his day, just as their descen-
dents eagerly awaited the latest Dickens work, a century and more later.
Two prominent men featured in his writing: the London deaf and dumb
soothsayer Duncan Campbell (Defoe 1720) and the Cornish dumb
philosopher Dickory Cronke who, by the age of three, was found to be
mute but was able to hear and who learned to read and write but used
signs (Defoe 1717).
Through these historical figures, Defoe drew attention to the educa-
tional potential of those who were deaf, mute, or both and, especially,
drew attention to the educational potential of fingerspelling and signing.
For example, we find the first pictorial representation of the manual al-
phabet used by Wallis in Defoes account of Duncan Campbell (Defoe
1720, 37). Defoe was concerned, not with the process of teaching the
person who was mute to speak, but with the questions around the edu-
cability of people who were deaf, mute, or both. In The History of the
Life and Adventures of Mr. Duncan Campbell (Defoe 1720), Defoe dis-
cusses the achievements of a range of prominent people who were deaf.
He mentions Wallis teaching Alexander Popham and lists others:
94 a sociological history of discrimination

Duncan Campbell is thought to be


the first deaf main character in Western
literature.

The Uncle of his present Sardinian Majesty, Sir John Gawdy, Sir Thomas
Knotcliff, SirGostwick, Sir Henry Lydall, and Mr Richard Lyns of
Oxford, were all of this Number, and yet Men Eminent in their several
Capacities, for understanding many Authors, and Expressing themselves in
Writing with wonderful Facility. (Defoe 1720, 54)

He adds,
In Hatton Garden, there now Lives a Miracle of Wit and good Nature, I
mean the Daughter of Mr Loggin, who, tho born Deaf and Dumb, (and she
has a Brother who has the same Impediments) yet writes her Mind down
upon any Subject with such Acuteness, as would Amaze Learned Men
themselves. (Defoe 1720, 54)

Defoes representations of people who were deaf, mute, or both con-


vey a sense of mystery and of powers lost on people who could hear and
speak. Duncan Campbell was a soothsayer sought out by the wealthy of
London for his fortune-telling powers. Dickory Cronke was a prophetic
philosopher who made Prophetical Observations upon the Affairs of
Europe, more particularly of Great Britain, from 1720, to 1729 (Defoe
1717, title). The miraculous is never far away as Cronke comes to his
speech some days before he died (Defoe 1717, title). A person who is
mute is also seen to have a special moral quality and, thus, becomes the
perfect subject for a morality tale. In the Preface to The Dumb philoso-
pher or great Britains Wonder . . . (Defoe 1717), Defoe writes that the
dumb philosopher is introduced to a wicked and degenerate Genera-
tion, as a proper emblem of virtue and morality. He writes of the char-
acter Dick Cronke, son of a tin miner,
In The History of the Life and Adventures of Mr. Duncan Campbell, Daniel
Defoe illustrates the manual alphabet used by John Wallis.
96 a sociological history of discrimination

He never gave the least sign of complaint or dissatisfaction with anything


unless it was when he heard the tiners swear, or saw them drunk, and then
too he would get out of their way, as soon as he had let them see by some
significant signs how scandalous and ridiculous they made themselves, and
against the next time he met them, would be sure to have a paper ready
writ, wherein he would present the folly of their drunkenness . . . (Defoe
1717, 18)

Defoes books on Duncan Campbell and Dickory Cronke were well into
multiple editions and exciting the popular imagination by the time his fu-
ture son-in-law, Henry Baker, decided to become a teacher of students
who were deaf.

Eighteenth-Century Britain:
Deaf Education as Private Enterprise
In mid-eighteenth-century Britain, the education of deaf people left the
philosophical realm and became a private enterprise.4 Techniques were
developed to teach them through signing, the manual alphabet, and the
acquisition of speech and lipreading. The techniques were kept secret.
The teachers were assumed to possess exceptional skills, skills based in
rational knowledge that was developed scientifically. The mystery of
their methods was not the mystery of magic but the mystery of science.
So Henry Baker (16981774), whose work we turn to next, was first and
foremost a scientist in the eyes of those who sought his services. He was
a scientist who had formalized the ideas and practices of his predecessor,
Wallis, to develop the techniques required to gain miraculous results
through the art of reason.

Henry Baker: Poet, Scientist,


and Peripatetic School Teacher

Although Baker was himself a highly respected experimental scientist,


a member of and for many years secretary to the Royal Society, his edu-
cational work with people who were deaf was regarded as a business,
not as an aspect of his work as a scientist. This view was a radical depar-
ture from the atmosphere that had surrounded the work of Wallis and
Holder, whose experiments and, indeed, debates were reported to and
became the subject of much discussion in the Royal Society. Also note-
The Formalization of Deaf Education 97

Henry Baker was an


eighteenth-century English naturalist
and poet who approached the
education of deaf people and of
people with speech impediments
as a business rather than as
part of his scientific work.

worthy is the fact that Baker made most of his money, not from educat-
ing people who were deaf, but from curing speech impediments, again,
through secret processes assumed scientific. In February 1740, he was
elected Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and, in March, a fellow of
the Royal Society for which he was secretary for many years. His work
on polyps with Folkes was published in the Transactions of the Royal So-
ciety and, in 1743, as a separate treatise. In the same year, he wrote The
Microscope Made Easy, a best-seller, and in 1744, was given the Copley
medal for his work on salt crystals. He died in 1774 at his apartments in
the Strand, in London.
After Bakers death, his grandson, the Reverend William Baker, who
had been bequeathed Bakers personal papers, wrote a brief memoir of
his grandfather based on Henry Bakers own notes and written as though
Henry Baker were writing in the first person.5 The following passage
from the memoirs describes how Baker first became involved in the edu-
cation of deaf people.
April 26th, 1720 I took leave of Mr. Parker and went to Enfield, on an invi-
tation from Mr. foster [sic] (added note: this visit was not to Mr. Sergeant
foster [sic] but to Mr. john forster [sic] an attorney father of the Seargeant
[sic]) who was my relation by marriagemy visit there was intended for
amusement of about 1 month, . . . but providence so ordered that I stayed in
the family until my marriage in 1729for this gentlman [sic] having
a daughter (Jane Forster a sister of the Seargent) born deaf and conse-
quently dumb who was then about 8 years old. heaven [sic] put into my
thoughts a method of instructing her to write, read, understand and speak
the English language; which communicating to her father he entrusted me
98 a sociological history of discrimination

to make a trial and from that time would never part with me till I had per-
fected her in the language, and taught her not only to read, write and speak
it readily, but likewise to understand the speech of others by sight, and be
able to hold a regular conversation with them on any subject. (n.d. a, par-
enthetical elements are Bakers)

Baker carefully protected his method through legal agreements with


his clients and stressed that he alone could perform these educational
tasks through scientific techniques. He claimed that heaven put into my
thoughts a method of instruction, but clearly, he read Walliss work
closely, following and building on his methods.6
Bakers routine is outlined in a letter he wrote in 1747 to the Reverend
Doctor Doddridge of Northampton outlining his work with people who
were deaf and speech impaired and its relationship to his scientific work:

When I was about twenty years of age, having a relation (a girl) who was
born deaf (and consequently dumb), it came into my thoughts, that such a
person might be instructed to write, read, and speak. I immediately made
the experiment; and my scholar, in about a year, could read in any book dis-
tinctly, speak very intelligibly most common words, and understand a great
deal of language. This success brought people about me, who were under
the same misfortune; and the handsome offers that were proposed, led me,
contrary to my first intention, to give the same assistance to others; and new
ones still applying from time to time, this has been my employment for
twenty-five years; during which, I have brought several, under those un-
happy circumstances, to speak the English language fluently, and converse
easily, from understanding what others say, by only observing the motions
of their organs of voice while speaking; to read and comprehend all com-
mon books, and to write their mind, either by letter or otherwise, in as sen-
sible, and in a better and more correct style than people usually do. Along
with this, I have also assisted great numbers to get rid of hesitation, stam-
mering, lisping, and various other impediments of speech; and have con-
stantly some sufferers of such nature under my direction, who come from
different parts, and whom I spend all my mornings in attending where they
are lodged; for no persuasions could ever induce me to take any home; the
attention and fatigue of teaching them making it necessary that I should be
quite undisturbed at all other times; so that after four or five oclock my
days work is over: but then, what with visits of friends, attending the Royal
Society, answering correspondents, preparing one thing or other for the
press, and other necessary avocations, I can seldom command an hour.
(Baker Letters)
The Formalization of Deaf Education 99

The education of people who were deaf was becoming a technique to be


applied, not an experiment to be learned from. Their impediments
were dealt with scientifically. But this science still was being applied only
to privileged individuals. The social construction of deafness and of
the deaf was still some way off.
The workbooks of Bakers deaf pupils give some indication of the
multifaceted nature of Bakers educational goals. One pupil, John
Hodges, writes, Mr Baker pays a great deal of money to my father to
teach me to read write and speak. In 1731, William Gwillym writes:
Mr Baker will see me first then go to Master Forster. Mr Baker lodges at
Mr Stephens, a booksellers. Mr Forster has 5 children. The eldest John is
a parson, James is a lawyer, William is deaf, his two daughters Jane and
Amy both deaf but can now speak. Mary Jeffreys writes: I came to
London a year ago I could read and write but not speak I was dumb.
William writes: I come from Hereford where I learned to write from
Mr, [sic] Williams the writing master, . . . my brothers and sisters are at
school in Oxford but I will not go because Mr Baker is the only one who
can teach speech. John Gildart writes: I must always open my mouth a
great deal when I speak and I must throw out my breath. If I do not open
my mouth I will speak like a baby. By 1760, Gildart wrote: I now
speak a great deal and I read and write my task very well. Mr. Baker
went to kiss the Kings hand.
Baker used to bring the Old Bailey sessions papers for the pupils to
read. The focus was definitely on Bakers particular expertise on teaching
speech, but the education was a rounded and worldly one. Baker did not
have a school as such, but his pupils did meet at his house on occasions
and were acquainted with each others family situation and educational
progress.
Baker used signing extensively, which is evident from the following
legal agreement between Baker and a client:
Whereas Henry Baker . . . hath invented and for many years practiced the
art of teaching such as have the misfortune to be deaf and dumb to read,
speak, and understand the English language, and amongst others he in-
structed in the said matters Lady Mary and Lady Anne OBryen two
Daughters of the Rt Honble the Earl of Inchequin; and Whereas Morough
OBryen Esqr of Mortimer Street, Cavendish Square is greatly desirous of
learning the Signs made use of by the Sd Henry Baker in teaching the said
Ladies, that he may be the better inabled to converse with Lady Mary
OBryen for whom he has the highest regard: It is hereby mutually agreed
100 a sociological history of discrimination

between them this twenty ninth day of January in the year one thousand
seven hundred and fifty three as follows . . .
. . . Henry Baker promises to instruct him . . . and that he will to the
utmst [sic] of his power make him acquainted with the Signs and means
necessary for his understanding and being understood by the Ladies Mary
and Anne OBryen . . .
. . . Morough OBryen doth hereby promise . . . not at any time either in
the whole or in the part divulge to anybody the signs or method which the
sd [sic] Henry Baker shall teach him. . . . (Baker Papers)

Again, Baker was protecting his business by claiming to have invented


from scratch not only his method but also the signing that was used as an
integral part of instruction and as a mode of communication with hearing
friends and relatives. The source and nature of the sign language that he
used remains unknown, but links to Wallis and also to his father-in-law
Daniel Defoe, who had written about the education of people who were
deaf through Walliss methods prior to Bakers involvement in teaching
Jane Forster, indicate close links to signing conventions of his time.7

Thomas Braidwood: Full-Time Schoolmaster

Unlike Baker, Thomas Braidwood (17151806) had no links with the


Royal Society or the world of scientific experimentation. He was a
schoolmaster. After graduating from the University of Edinburgh, he
became an assistant master at Hamilton Grammar School before estab-
lishing his own private school for teaching mathematics. At that stage,
Braidwood appears to have had no contact with deaf people. He contin-
ued to teach mathematics until he was forty-five years old, when he was
asked by a wealthy wine merchant, Alexander Sheriff, from the town of
Leith near Edinburgh to admit his son, Charles, who was deaf.
Some accounts of the education of Charles claim that his father had
read Wallis and that he specifically asked that Braidwood put these prin-
ciples into practice with his son (Gallaudet 1875, 154). The year was
1760, the same time as Henry Baker was teaching his last pupils. Braid-
wood accepted the challenge and taught the boy not only mathematics
and to read and write but also to speak and lipread. A few accounts of
the education of Charles Sheriff mention that Braidwood did in fact em-
bark on the new venture using ideas in the Philosophical transactions.8
Joseph Watson, Braidwoods nephew who was trained by Braidwood,
states quite clearly that Braidwoods method was founded on the same
principles as those of Dr. John Wallis as outlined in his letter to Robert
The Formalization of Deaf Education 101

Boyle (Watson 1809, xxiii). Braidwoods success soon brought requests


from other parents, and the number of pupils in his school who were
deaf increased until the mathematics school was closed and Braidwood
renamed his school Mr Braidwoods Academy for the Deaf and Dumb.
Braidwood claimed, in an advertisement in the Scots Magazine in Au-
gust 1767, to undertake to teach anyone of a tolerable genius in the
space of about three years to speak and to read distinctly (quoted in
Pritchard 1963, 215). Braidwoods reputation spread, and demand was
heavy. In 1768, a poem by Charles Sheriff, On Seeing Garrick Act,
was published in several newspapers and magazines (quoted in Hay and
Lee 1993/4, 2).9 By 1769, Braidwood was writing to the Scots Magazine
that thirty pupils had had to be turned away from the school. He claimed
that only a few pupils could be taken at the same time and that the edu-
cation was expensive. He urged financial assistance to those who could
not afford the fees and offered to communicate his skill to three or four
ingenious young men (Braidwood 1769, 342). No such funds or young
men were forthcoming so Braidwoods school continued as a private
school for the children of the wealthy. A nephew, John Braidwood (born
1756), became Thomass assistant in 1775. Much later, Johns sons, John
and Thomas, were also to play their part in the history of deaf educa-
tion, in both Britain and America. A second nephew, Joseph Watson
(17651829), was also to be taken on as an assistant in 1784, but we will
return to Joseph Watson shortly.
What then were Braidwoods methods and results? Like Baker, he
kept his methods a secret to protect his livelihood, but unlike Baker, he
trained others to teach through his own methods. Those assistants were
not necessarily as secretive. Also, visitors to his academy left records
of what they saw. Certainly, people of the time focused on his ability to
teach deaf pupils to speak, but we must remember that the education of
people who were deaf was seen as miraculous whether or not the pupils
spoke. Therefore, Charles Sheriffs poem was evidence of educational
success, not of the ability to speak. His command of the English language
in print is what impressed people. When the American Francis Green
commented in detail on the education of his son, Charles Green, under
Braidwood, he stressed three things: first, Braidwoods conviction that
learning to write was not adequate and that it is almost impossible for
deaf persons, without the use of speech, to be perfect in their ideas
(Green 1783, 167; Greens italics); second, the success of his son in learn-
ing to speak; and third, the high quality of his general education. Of his
second visit to his son in 1782, Green writes:
102 a sociological history of discrimination

On my next visit, in September 1782, his improvements were very percepti-


ble in speech, the construction of language, and in writing: He had made a
good beginning in arithmetic, and surprising progress in the arts of drawing
and painting. I found him capable of not only comparing ideas, and draw-
ing inferences, but expressing his sentiments with judgement [sic]. On my
desiring him to attempt something he thought himself unequal to, I set him
the example by doing it myself: Upon which, he shook his head, and with a
smile, replied (distinctly, viva voce), You are a man, Sir, I am a boy. . . .
(Green 1783, 167ff.; Greens italics)

An earlier American pupil, Thomas Bolling, was described in a letter


written in 1841 by Colonel William Bolling as having the manners of
the most polished gentleman. His articulation so perfect, that his family
and friends and servants understood him in conversation (Bolling Let-
ters). The evidence of famous writers such as Samuel Johnson, Thomas
Pennant, and Lord Monboddo who visited the academy also reported
the high educational standards and admirable speaking abilities of at
least those students selected by Braidwood to perform for the visitors.10
With respect to the academic content of the education received by
Braidwoods pupils, we can gauge the high standards set and achieved
not only by the education of eminent scientists such as John Goodricke,
the famous astronomer, but also by the aspirations of Braidwood for
Charles Green, which he outlined in a letter to Francis Green written on
20 July 1782:11
As to the plan of his education (mentioned by you) we are of opinion, that he
should continue in the study of the English language, arithmetic, geography,
geometry, &c. until he is pretty much master of them. We think, if Charles is
master of the English language, the sciences, the French, and as much Latin
as may give him a competent knowledge of the derivation of words, it would
be sufficient; and it would be a pity not to keep him employed as much as
possible in drawing, that appearing to be his forte.As to dancing, we refer
the time to yourself, &c. (Green 1783, 15455; Greens italics).

To what degree signing was used as part of the teaching process is not
clear, but we do know that Braidwoods pupils signed and that they used
fingerspelling. Hugo Arnots The History of Edinburgh from the Earliest
Accounts to the Present Time (Arnot 1788) includes a description of
Braidwoods academy that specifically mentions the use of gestures and
fingerspelling (Arnot 1788, 42526). We know that his teacher trainee,
Watson, used the two-handed alphabet as integral to the teaching
The Formalization of Deaf Education 103

Thomas Bolling, an American,


was sent to Scotland to be
educated by Thomas Braidwood.

process. We have already quoted evidence that Braidwoods first pupil,


Charles Sheriff, signed, and ample evidence shows that other pupils of
Braidwoods also signedthe deaf parliamentarian Francis Humber-
stone McKenzie, for example. Some evidence also indicates that Thomas
Bolling, one of Braidwoods four American pupils signed. An American
deaf man who met Bolling stated that

I had a pleasant conversation with him, and he told me that he was edu-
cated by Mr Braidwood at Edinburg [sic]. He was a nicely dressed gentle-
man, and passed for a speaking person. . . . I found his signs a little different
from ours. I have not heard anything about him for a long time. (The Deaf-
Mutes Journal 1876)12

Samuel Johnsons description of a girl to whom he presented an arithmetic


problem is also interesting: She looked upon it, and quivering her fingers
in a manner which I thought very pretty, but of which I know not whether
it was art or play, multiplied the sum regularly in two lines, observing the
decimal place. . . . (Johnson 1775, 38283). The philosopher and cham-
pion of Dalgarno, Dugald Stewart, comments on the natural language,
or sign language, of Braidwoods pupils in Edinburgh (Stewart 1860, 16).
Braidwood taught all his pupils in one room. He moved about the
classroom giving individual attention to each pupil, checking each ones
work. He was concerned primarily with imparting a first-class education
rather than with focusing on articulation, especially if the pupil showed
no aptitude for speech. One of Braidwoods most eminent pupils, the as-
tronomer John Goodricke, is reported never to have spoken, and other
former pupils were reported to be incomprehensible.
104 a sociological history of discrimination

Baker and Braidwood, therefore, transformed the scientific experi-


ments of Wallis and Holder into teaching methods that they applied sys-
tematically in educating deaf children of the wealthy. Baker embodied
the educated gentleman scientist, the skilled tutor with expertise based in
his secular, scientific education and experience. He had no formal school
as such but was a schoolmaster in the fashion of the day, a peripatetic
schoolmaster. Braidwood took the education of people who were deaf
one step further by establishing Britains first school for deaf people, his
Academy for the Deaf and Dumb. Note that Braidwoods school was
an academy, an institution of learning, not an asylum. The term asy-
lum would not be used in relation to the education of people who were
deaf until the turn of the century in Britain when education for people
who were poor and deaf began and became a charity as well as a mis-
sion. However, in France, the institutionalization of the education of
children who were poor and deaf first took place in the mid-eighteenth
century.

The French Enlightenment, Linguistic


Speculation, and Deaf Education
In France and Germany, the situation in the first half of the eighteenth
century was similar to that in Britain, with individuals developing secret
techniques for the education of people who were deaf, especially for
teaching them speech and lipreading. But although, in Britain, the days
for presenting before the Royal Society the results of teaching people
who were deaf had passed and deaf education had become an accepted
though secret scientific technique, in France, these presentations were
just beginning. Again, at the philosophical level, Britain had been the
torchbearer.13
Nearly a century after the practice of presenting students who were
deaf to the Royal Society in Britain had passed, Jacob Rodriguez Pereire
dominated the scene at the Royal Academy in mid-eighteenth-century
France, especially through the remarkable achievements of his student
Saboureux de Fontenay:

In January of 1751, midway between his twelfth and thirteenth birthdays,


Saboureux de Fontenay was presented to members of the Royal Academy of
Sciences in Paris. The academicians had been convoked to examine the deaf
boys astonishing command of spoken French. Their report states that he
pronounced clearly and distinctly all the French vowels and consonants,
including the complicated nasal sounds. He also recited the Lords Prayer
The Formalization of Deaf Education 105

Jacob Rodriguez Pereire taught


his deaf students to speak by touch
and vibration through muscles.

in Latin, and demonstrated that he understood a few French expressions


conveyed to him by fingerspelling. This impressive achievement by the sec-
ond talking deaf person to be observed at the academy was taken to confirm
the pedagogical talents of their teacher, Jacob Rodriguez Pereire. As a con-
sequence of this examination, and as a reward for bringing greater glory to
the most enlightened nation on earth and to its language, King Louis XV
granted Pereire an income for life, securing his reputation as the greatest
demutiser of the deaf in Europe. (Lane 1984, 14)

The French Enlightenment was indeed far more self-conscious, elegant,


and vibrant than anything Britain had seen in the preceding century. And
in the process, people who were deaf in France were, for a time, to
achieve and experience a prominence in French society unlike anything
that would be seen for a very long time anywhere in the world. Ironically,
in the process, the deaf, like the mad, would eventually enter the asy-
lum and become objects of sympathy and pity, their deafness firmly cate-
gorized and medicalized.
The story that relates the founding of the school for children who
were deaf and poor in Paris has been told many times and has entered
the realm of myth and legend.14 In France, and especially in the United
States, the period from the 1760s when the school was founded by lEpe
until the early 1800s is presented as a kind of Elysian golden age inhab-
ited by deaf and hearing demigods. Their busts and portraitslEpe,
Sicard, Massieu, Clerc, Berthier, Bbian, in particularadorn the places
where deaf history and culture are honored. Today, they are honored
above all for the role they played in the development of the education of
deaf people through sign language, in particular, for the heritage that
flowered, not in France, but in the United States.
106 a sociological history of discrimination

However, there is another side to these developments. Although the


work of lEpe and his successors did indeed establish for all to see that
people who were deaf could be educated to participate creatively in the
intellectual, vocational, and artistic realms of social life, these educators
also laid the ground for the effective medicalization of deafness and for
the entry of deaf people into the ranks of the disabled. Just as the in-
stitutionalization of madness, or great confinement, laid the ground
for the classification, medicalization, secularization, and thus demystifi-
cation of madness, transforming it into a condition that was pitied rather
than feared or simply tolerated, so too would the institutionalization of
children who were deaf and poor provide the basis by which these same
processes would define and marginalize deaf people. Schools were devel-
oped as a way to discipline those aspects of society that were being seen
as anomalous. Unreason and the abnormal not only were embodied but
also herded together, disciplined, and controlled in precisely the way that
Foucault has so eloquently described when documenting the increasing
formalization and standardization of schools and prisons in the nor-
malization of Western humanity (Foucault 1979).
More clearly than with any other individual, we see, in the transfor-
mations of lEpes philosophy and pedagogy, the radical changes that
occurred in the education and conceptualization of people who were
deaf during the eighteenth century. Through the following brief bio-
graphical sketch of lEpe, we see the shift from a concern with the phi-
losophy of language to the development of the asylum, a shift that was
oriented toward the humanist transformation of people who were deaf
through education, through the rational application of scientific tech-
niques, and particularly, through the transformation of their language
from its natural, vulgar form and content to an approximation of the
universal tongue of knowledge and power.

LEpe: The Institutionalization


and Rationalization of Deaf People

Charles Michel de lEpe (17121789), a Jansenist priest and barrister,


was an educated and devout man who, in his forties, became involved
in educating two sisters who were deaf, which led to a lifelong dedica-
tion to the education of children who were deaf and poor in Paris.15
LEpe became intrigued by the possibilities that sign language provided
as a medium for education. He was influenced in his subsequent educa-
The Formalization of Deaf Education 107

tional and religious crusade for Pariss people who were poor and deaf
by two distinctly eighteenth-century preoccupations: first, the philo-
sophical engagement with language as the path to knowledge and, sec-
ond, the charitable uplifting of poor people. As we pointed out in the
previous chapter, lEpe was convinced that, in sign language, he had
discovered the basis for developing a universal language. He was also
convinced that the rational development of sign language was the
medium through which people who were deaf could be educated.16 He
regarded the natural sign language of his pupils as completely inade-
quate as a medium for education and set out to develop a system of
methodological signs.
Through his rational, methodological signs, lEpe was rationalizing
the natural world, domesticating the beasts of the slums by providing
them with a language forged by scientific principles, a cultured language
of reason that transcended their vulgar, natural language. For many,
lEpe at last had succeeded in developing a universal language adequate
to the tasks of philosophy.17 Bazot commented in the early 1800s, that,
until lEpe created the universal language of signs, there was only dacty-
lology and added, Il tait rserv labb de lEpe de crer le langage
universel de lintelligence avec lequel on peut sentendre et communiquer
dans tous les idimes de lunivers (Bazot 1819, 23). Bazot declared that
the natural sign language of deaf people was a natural, simple, and even
vulgar language, which became, in the hands of lEpe and his successor
Sicard, a universal language capable of metaphysical, scientific, and
philosophical expression (Bazot 1819, 27n. 19).
Twice weekly, lEpe opened his house to the public to view his suc-
cess with his pupils. The success lay in their ability to reproduce sen-
tences in a number of languages after they had been dictated in method-
ological sign and to answer signed questions in written French. This
ability was seen as evidence of both the universality of his methodologi-
cal sign language and of the educational success of his method.

LEpe: The Myth

Popular representations of lEpes work were soon to picture him as the


archetypal selfless benefactor, ministering to the poorest of the poor, who
were bereft of not only adequate physical sustenance but also the sense
of hearing and, therefore, access to spoken language. Four decades after
he had established his school and a decade after his death, lEpe became
108 a sociological history of discrimination

Charles Michel de lEpes


philosophy and pedagogy
radically changed the education
and conceptualization of people
who were deaf during the
eighteenth century.

a hero of the popular stage throughout Europe and Britain. The real
abb disappeared, and a new, mythic figure emerged, imbued with the
emerging values of a new century.
On Saturday, 14 December 1799, a new play was performed at the
Thtre Franais in Paris. The play was titled LAbb de Lpe,
Comdie Historique en Cinq Actes et en Prose by J. N. Bouilly (Bouilly
1800). On 24 February 1801, a play titled Deaf and Dumb: or, The
Orphan Protected: An Historical Drama in Five Acts was performed
at The Theatre Royal in Drury Lane in London. It was the first English
translation of Bouillys play. Others soon appeared.18 The play was the
story of lEpes most mysterious pupil, a nobleman cast out by rela-
tives, the Count of Solar, and of the abbs fight for his recognition and
for the restoration of his title and inheritance. It drew large audiences
year after year throughout Britain and Europe. In postrevolutionary
France, Bouillys play excited complex social and political reactions that
were popular with the masses and therefore with Napoleon but that
were scorned by the intelligentsia (see Mirzoeff 1995, 74ff.).
In Britain, Bouillys play was treated as good entertainment, especially
the silent signing performance of the actress playing Solar, called Julio
in one version and Theodore in another. The lack of speech was
equated with innocence. The prologue ends:

Think not, we mean, in decencys neglect,


To sport with frailty, and to mock defect;
To bid mean souls with selfish triumph see
Two wants, at least, from which themselves are free.
The Formalization of Deaf Education 109

The Sage yet lives whose toils immortal shew,


What human powers without these aids can do.
Taught by commanding genius to restrain
Their causeless pridewho hear and speak in vain.
To prove that pertness wisely had resignd
Her fluent utterance for a fluent mind;
And changd for ears, with follys jargon fraught,
The keener sense of uncorrupted thought. (Bouilly 1801b)

People who were deaf, thus, were set apart as being uncorrupted by
speech and hearing but possessing keen minds capable of effective educa-
tion. The appeals to Christian charity not to mock defect signaled the
presence of a new age of benevolence (compare Lane 1992). The triumph
of the hearing educator over the barriers of deafness was embodied in the
oft-quoted response in Bouillys play of Theodore to the question Who is
the greatest genius that France has ever produced? He writes the follow-
ing reply: Science would decide for DAlembert, and Nature say, Buf-
fon; Wit and Taste present Voltaire; and Sentiment pleads for Rousseau;
but Genius and Humanity cry out for De lEpe; and him I call the great-
est of all human creatures (Bouilly 1801b, 45).
But, lest all this French seriousness oppress the nonrevolutionary
Britons, the English version ended with the actress who had played Solar
coming forward with the following epilogue, an addition not in the orig-
inal French play:

Heres Dumby come to speaktwas ten to one


That I had talked before the play was done.
Of all authors, he is far most cunning
Who can ensure a womans tongue from running.
Speech is our natureIf I err convict me
What bachelor so rude to contradict me? (Bouilly 1801b, 82)

The English version ended with laughter as if to assure the audience that
the play in no way threatened their normality or the status quo. But
public consciousness about the education of people who were deaf and
the viability of sign language as a medium of education and communi-
cation was raised. The public fascination with the education of deaf peo-
ple that had been raised by Defoe early in the eighteenth century was
rekindled at the beginning of the nineteenth century by Bouillys play and
would be stirred further by Dickens later in the century.
110 a sociological history of discrimination

The Man and the Myth: The Influence of lEpe


on the Development of Deaf Education in Britain
LEpes work not only entertained Londons theatergoers but also stirred
the rising tide of charity and benevolence. Braidwoods appeals in Scots
Magazine for financial support to enable parents to have their children
educated had failed as had his appeal for young men of genius to come
forward to be trained as teachers. Possibly, the time was not yet right to
appeal to the growing charitable orientations of the wealthy, and possi-
bly, Braidwood needed the overt support of the church. But Braidwood
had been prepared to teach students who were poor and deaf as well as
to train teachers. Aware of the work of lEpe in Paris, Francis Green,
Charles Greens father, agitated to get education for students who were
poor and deaf established in England. In 1783, he wrote:

It is much regretted, that since the time Messrs. Braidwood began to prac-
tice this ingenious method, these gentlemen have been under the mortifying
and cruel necessity of refusing the charge and instruction, as I understand,
of upwards of an hundred (chiefly deaf persons). Although they have with
humanity, benevolence, and generosity, maintained and taught several chil-
dren of indigent parents gratis, yet that violence have they been obliged to
do to their inclinations, for the following good reasons: First, it would have
been eventually deceiving themselves, as well as their pupils and friends;
labouring without thorough effect, consequently bringing into contempt
and disuse a method, which with no small labor and assiduity they have
brought to a great degree of perfection, were they (themselves) to pretend to
instruct more than a certain number at a time; their joint attention and tu-
ition cannot (I think) be applied to many more than twenty, at once, with
full effect.
Secondly, a necessary and laudable regard to their own family forbade
their undertaking what must be an insupportable burthen [sic] to any single
family; for many of the parents of such objects were incapable even of
reimbursing the necessary expenses of maintenance, &c. . . . (Green 1783;
Greens italics)

In the spirit of charity, Green put forward a plan for a fund that would
be administered by a governor and directors for the establishment of a
school for students who were poor and deaf. LEpe was aware of the
plan and expressed anxiety about it because he understood the method
used by the Braidwoods to be similar to that of the German oralist
Heineke (he was wrong). The plan came to nothing. But the center of
The Formalization of Deaf Education 111

deaf education in Britain did shift from Edinburgh to London. In 1783,


the King made 100 per annum available to Braidwood to establish his
school in London, and so, in the same year, the school moved to Grove
House in Hackney outside London. In the following year, another
nephew of Thomas Braidwood, Joseph Watson, began to teach at the
academy under the instruction of Thomas and John Braidwood.

The Development of Schooling for Students


Who Were Poor and Deaf in Britain
In Britain, the teaching of students who were deaf was, like schooling in
general, on the verge of entering a new phase as education spread beyond
the privileged classes. In France beginning from 1771, lEpe taught his
pupils in his fathers house, but by the end of the century, a separate pub-
lic institution had been established. The same process was at work in
London. Eight years after the Braidwoods moved to Hackney, the Rev-
erend John Townsend, minister to the congregational church in Jamaica
Row in Bermondsey in South London was approached by Mrs. Creasy, a
member of his congregation:

In his ministerial relation, Mr Townsend became acquainted with a lady,


whose son was deaf and dumb, and who had been a pupil of Mr. Braid-
woods almost ten years. The youth evinced an intellectual capacity which
caused delight and surprise to the good pastor, who was astonished at the
facility and accuracy, with which ideas were received and communicated.
Mrs. C., the lady referred to, sympathising with those mothers whose cir-
cumstances precluded their incurring the expense of 1500., (which was the
sum paid by herself) pleaded the cause of those afflicted and destitute out-
casts of society, until Mr. T. entered into her feelings of commiseration, and
decided with her on the necessity and practicability of having a charitable
Institution for the deaf and dumb children of the poor.
On the Sabbath day, June 1st, 1792, were commenced the subscriptions,
which were to receive additions little calculated on, by the small band who
gave their first offering to induce their excellent pastor to begin this noble
work of mercy. Three friends contributed one guinea each; Mr Townsend
gave the fourth. (Townsend 1831, 3637; Townsends italics)

Townsend took the cause to heart and worked tirelessly to enlist support.
Most vital was the support of the philanthropist Henry Thornton and of
the Anglican Minister of Bermondsey, the Reverend Henry Cox Mason.
112 a sociological history of discrimination

After meeting the deaf son of one


of his congregants, the Reverend John
Townsend worked tirelessly with
the Reverend Henry Cox Mason to
raise money for an institution for
poverty-stricken deaf children.

At a time when religious differences were often bitterly felt, especially


between the established church and dissenters, Townsend succeeded in
securing the cooperation of both dissenter and churchman, clergy and
laity, in the establishment of a school. Joseph Watson, Thomas Braid-
woods nephew, read the leaflets circulated by the Reverends Townsend
and Mason and offered his services as teacher at the proposed school.
His offer was soon accepted.
On Thursday, 30 August 1792, at 6.30 P.M., a meeting was held in the
Pauls Head Tavern in Bermondsey for the Purpose of Establishing in
Bermondsey an Asylum for the Support and Education of the Deaf and
Dumb Children of the Poor. Braidwoods school for the wealthy re-
mained an academy; however, the newly established school for students
who were poor and deafa move toward mass educationwas an asy-
lum, oriented in large part toward the moral management of the impo-
tent poor.
As schools for the deaf rapidly emerged throughout Britain, Europe,
America, and the British colonies in the nineteenth century, the relation-
ship between developments in France and those in Britain was far from
straightforward. Two distinct ideological orientations were at work: the
missionary zeal of the British and the increasingly medical orientation of
the French. In Britain, where imperial rather than revolutionary senti-
ments dominated the dawning of the nineteenth century, deaf education
became, above all, a mission. Medicine would not dominate the British
educational process for some time, in contrast to France, but it would do
so eventually. In France, reason, above all, was reorganizing the cosmos.
Humanity was being firmly diagnosed, classified, rationalized, demysti-
The Formalization of Deaf Education 113

fied, and institutionalized. In this process, medicine was to play a major


role as the clinical gaze absorbed not only those labeled insane but also,
among others, those who were deaf. In 1800, as if to herald the dramat-
ically disabling qualities of the century that was dawning, labb Roch-
Ambroise-Cucurron Sicard (17421822), lEpes successor as head of
the Paris school, appointed a young surgeon, Jean-Marc Itard, as resi-
dent physician at the school (see Lane 1988, 126).

The Clinical Gaze on the Deaf Body


True to the contemporary development of scientific medicine, the clin-
ical gaze on deafness was directed to the physical body, more specifically,
to knowledge gained from cadavers (Foucault 1975, 196). The rush for
bodies at the end of the eighteenth century and the ready availability of
guillotined heads in France aided surgeons in identifying most features of
the middle and inner ear by the end of the eighteenth century. The surgi-
cal treatment of the ear was developing, particularly in France, Germany,
and Britain. Surgeons used the eustachian catheter in attempts to clear
blockages that could affect hearing, and they carried out early mastoid
operations. At the turn of the nineteenth century in Britain, Astley
Cooper became well known for his operations in which he punctured the
tympanic membrane and for the partial return of hearing in his patients
that was claimed to result from the operation. He was awarded a medal
in 1802 for his account of twenty such cases. However, this operation
was only temporarily successful as the tympanic membrane would in-
variably grow back. The search for medical cures for deafness continued
apace, focusing not on the total individual but on the manipulation of
the persons anatomy, the pathological body. The experiments of sur-
geons such as Saunders, Cooper, and Curtis in Britain; Itard and Deleau
in France; Hendrisksz and Guyot in Holland; and Himley in Germany
paved the way for greater professionalization of aural surgery, which
paralleled the moves to professionalism in other areas of medicine and
beyond.19
The relationship between the educational and medical appropriation
of people who were deaf and of deafness was complex. In Britain and in
America, an overtly religious mission to save souls as well as to feed and
clothe needy bodies dominated the education of children who were poor
and deaf and kept in check the experimental surgeons, who had little
concern for souls and a fervent need for bodiesalive or dead. For the
114 a sociological history of discrimination

surgeons seeking cures, the attitudes of these pious missionaries were


frustrating because surgeons saw the educational process as an integral
part of the broader medical process, the treatment of a pathological con-
dition that was embodied in a pathological individual. Medical treatises
on the ear almost invariably contained sections on deaf education.20
In France, where the spirit of the philosophers dominated educational
processes (see Saisselin 1995, 39597), the medical experimentation of
the early nineteenth century was much more welcome as a valid and kin-
dred aspect of the search for a philosophical-scientific understanding of
humanity. The pedagogical gaze was at the same time a clinical gaze.

Sign Language, the Clinical Gaze, and the


Consolidation of lEpes Mission in France
In Catholic, postrevolutionary France, although a clear priority was to
provide people who were poor and deaf with access to the church, the
focus of the education for poor people was more overtly intellectual than
in Britain. Poor people were the heroes of the hour, and the potential cre-
ativity of all citizens was acknowledged. Intellectuals and artists who
were deaf emerged, and soon, the schools were absorbing teachers who
were deaf. Four decades earlier than in Britain, an educated deaf com-
munity emerged to add its voice to debates about the education and gen-
eral treatment of deaf people.
But despite the public prominence of deaf intellectuals such as Berthier,
Massieu, and Clerc as well as of an increasing band of deaf painters and
sculptors (see Mirzoeff 1995), the Paris school for the deaf was, in the last
decade of the eighteenth century and the first two decades of the nine-
teenth century, a place of intense contradictions. Although its brilliant
deaf pupils were publicly hailed for their intellectual and artistic achieve-
ments, in general, people who were deaf constantly were linked concep-
tually with children in need of care, with the savages of the emerging
colonies, and with the mad. In fact, the deaf and the insane were dealt
with by the same department of the Ministry of the Interior throughout
the nineteenth century. The stigma of deafness was doubled by that of
madness (Mirzoeff 1995, 98).
The Paris school for the deaf walled in its students. Sometimes, pupils
would try to escape, even by digging under the wall. On capture, one
escapee in 1805 was sent to a lunatic asylum. The school was part of
the confinement of unreason, and behind its walls, the medicalization
The Formalization of Deaf Education 115

of deafness dramatically developed. The philosophical concerns of the


eighteenth century gave way to medical concerns as deafness became a
pathological sickness, with sign language . . . less of a philosophical
problem than a symptom (64). The asylum and the Institute sought to
contain and control the margins of rationality, not to set them loose
(66).
Deafness was defined as a pathological condition, and for two de-
cades, the Paris school physician, Itard, set out to find a cure. The school
became his laboratory; the students, his guinea pigs in aural surgery.
For the first decade, Itards attentions were focused on the much publi-
cized wild boy of Aveyron, but when his attempts to teach the boy to
speak failed, he turned his attentions to the pupils.21 He applied electric
shocks to ears; placed leeches and white-hot metal on pupils necks;
pierced eardrums; fractured skulls; inserted probes in pupils eustachian
tubes; and applied blistering agents to necks, ears, and faces. Pain, infec-
tion, and even death resulted (Lane 1988, 13236). Depressed by his fail-
ures, Itard turned to trying to teach the students to speak. He then turned
to teaching the pupils to hear, never giving up on his conviction that,
apart from with the congenitally deaf, cures could be found.
Alongside Itards medical orientation to deafness was the evolutionist
orientation of Joseph Marie, Baron De Grando (17721842), director
of the Paris Institute from 1820:

Joseph Marie, Baron De Grando, philosopher, administrator, historian,


and philanthropist, conducted philanthropy the way generals wage war: it
was organized, it was imposed by force, it was self-righteous. He conducted
it in external affairs, where the beneficiaries called it imperialism, and he
conducted it in internal affairs, where the beneficiaries called it paternal-
ism. These are two sides of the same coin. (Lane 1988, 144)

De Grando embodied the ideal of the imperial nineteenth-century scien-


tist philosopher. His assumed intellectual and cultural superiority was
constantly constructed through not only the creation of inferior others
but also the creation of a dependence that these lesser beings had on him-
self and those of his own kind. Those who were poor, who were non-
Western, or who were deaf were all pictured in his voluminous writings
as being similar: childlike, uncultured, evolutionarily inferior, mentally
inferior, and linguistically inferior. They all needed the superior philan-
thropist, the paternal guidance that only the cultured, educated segment
of Western civilization could provide. He regarded sign language as
116 a sociological history of discrimination

primitive and universal; saw the system of methodological signs as hav-


ing provided an initial path to learning; regarded the search for medical
cures for deafness as being of prime importance; and promoted oralism
as the path to learning beyond the limitations of signing. He looked to
the philosophy of Locke to support his educational orientations but
regarded people who were deaf as qualitatively distinct from normal
human beings, claiming that they, as deaf people, did not have the po-
tential to achieve normal intellectual or artistic creativity (see De
Grando 1827b, 594).
De Grando is often represented as the destroyer of all that lEpe and
Sicard had achieved. This interpretation of history results essentially
from the simplistic representation of the history of the education of deaf
people as a battle between manualists and oralists. De Grando certainly
moved against the spirit of the majority of staff members and students in
the institute to establish in Paris a predominantly oralist education for
people who were deaf and to disenfranchise teachers who were deaf. But
De Grando, in fact, built on the benevolence and educational aspira-
tions of his predecessors. LEpe and Sicard had both taught articulation
and had both regarded sign language, especially natural sign language, as
being of limited value. De Grando moved not against the tradition of
his predecessors but against the aspirations and orientations of his deaf
and hearing contemporaries such as Berthier and Bbian in the institute.
What happened was that the traditions of the institute were reinterpreted
through imperialist lenses worn, not by a priest, but by a former soldier,
a worldly gentleman scholar of the nineteenth century.
Despite the emergence of myths to the contrary, lEpe and Sicard, in
fact, also regarded people who were deaf as being intrinsically incapable
of the same achievements as hearing people and attributed all the
achievements of their pupils to the pupils access to the scientific methods
of their teachers, including the sign language developed by lEpe and
built on by Sicard. Together, lEpe and Sicard not only carried out the
great confinement of people who were deaf but also constructed them
as a unitary category, distinct from and other than ordinary, normal
human beings, a category of humanity who, by 1833, was described as
suffering from a pathological medical condition, surdi-mutit, or
deaf-mutism.
Itard had been appointed by Sicard and firmly supported by De
Grando. The pedagogical gaze that isolated and singularized the deaf
was reinforced by the clinical gaze that defined them as clinically patho-
The Formalization of Deaf Education 117

logical. Coupled with the clinical gaze was the imperial gaze of De
Grando, defining deaf people not only as pathological but also as
culturally inferior, removed from postrevolutionary France by countless
generations of evolutionary development. In 1853, Itards successor,
Prosper Mnire wrote:

The deaf believe that they are our equals in all respects. We should be gen-
erous and not destroy that illusion. But whatever they believe, deafness is an
infirmity and we should repair it whether the person who has it is disturbed
by it or not. (quoted Mirzoeff 1995, 98).

The Paris school for the deaf was an agency through which the unitary
and pathological character of deaf people was culturally constructed.
As Didier Sguillon has shown, the entire routine of the Paris school
through the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth centuries was med-
ically coordinated as the clinical gaze sought to identify and ameliorate
physical and behavioral pathologies. Gymnastics plays a key role. . . .
The body of the deaf pupil is put under daily medical watch. Hydrother-
apy treatments are prescribed to all pupils (Sguillon 1996, 261). From
1889, with the pure oral method prescribed as the only method to be
used, sign language was forbidden. Demutisation is described as an hy-
gienic factor and relies on a special breathing education in order to im-
prove the childs voice (265). It is not until after 1968 that the influ-
ence of medicine weakens (271).
In Britain, similar processes were at work but were expressed in a dis-
tinctly British way. They were still linked to Wallis through Henry Baker
and the Braidwoods, heirs to the British enlightenment of the seven-
teenth century, rather than to the French Enlightenment of the eigh-
teenth century. These educators were vehemently Protestant rather than
Catholic, and in their Protestantism, they were concerned, above all,
with the moral management rather than the medical transformation of
their pupils. Although lEpes work in France was known by those who
were involved in the development of education for students in Britain
who were poor and deaf, the pedagogies that developed by no means re-
flected developments in France.
Yet despite these differences, by the beginning of the nineteenth cen-
tury, educational and medical developments throughout the Western
world were all expressions of an essentially uniform orientation toward
humanity, a view of humanity as essentially normal, surrounded on
the edges, on the margins, by the pathological foils to this normality.
118 a sociological history of discrimination

Educational and medical developments were interweaving expressions of


an ideological practice by which the pathological was being separated
out from the former coalescence of humanity. Through its charitable and
essentially imperial orientation toward those in need of salvationbe
they Indians, Chinese, Africans, or deaf people, even the missionary zeal
that encompassed educational developments in Britain and, to a slightly
less degree, those in America served to construct the concept that people
who were deaf were marginal, were different, were an other.

Notes
1. Gottfried Wilhelm Leibnitz (16461716) was a German philosopher and
mathematician. He provided a view of innate abilities and knowledge that was
different from the view of his contemporary, Locke. Sensory impairment in-
trigued Leibnitz, especially the question How can comprehension occur if things
are not experienced or sensed? Lockes ideas were closely linked to Aristotles
whereas those of Leibnitz were linked to Platos. Leibnitzs philosophical work
on innate ideas and the nature of language exerted an important influence on de-
velopments in deaf education.
2. Daniel Defoe is best known today as the author of the novels Robinson
Crusoe and Moll Flanders.
3. In 1728, for example, Defoe and Henry Baker (Baker using the pseudonym
Henry Stonecastle) founded the Universal Spectator and Weekly Journal.
4. This period is also when philosophers become scientists, when sci-
ence refers to specialized branches of study, and when philosophy becomes
the generalization of those truths established by science (Oxford English Dic-
tionary 1969, vol. 14, s.v. entry).
5. The papers of Henry Baker later came into the possession of Thomas
Arnold of Northampton, one of the most important influences on the develop-
ment of oralism in Britain in the late 1900s (see chapter 7 of this volume). The
papers are currently in the Farrar Collection of the John Rylands Library of the
University of Manchester in Deansgate, Manchester, United Kingdom.
6. See correspondence (Baker Letters) for 1738 between Henry Baker and
Thomas Walls.
7. The manual alphabet used by Wallis was reproduced by Defoe in his book
of the deaf soothsayer Duncan Cambell (Defoe 1720), where Defoe also men-
tions the work of Wallis.
8. See, for example, A Brief Historical Sketch (1835).
9. A friendship between Charles Sheriff and Garrick appears to have ensued.
Murphy Arthur (Arthur 1801, 18086) describes the friendship between Mr.
Sheriff, a pupil of Braidwoods who became a well-known painter, and Garrick.
Arthur reports that Sheriff could read and write well, but his speech was incom-
The Formalization of Deaf Education 119

prehensible. He adds that Sheriff could repeat Garricks performance in signs. In


about 1773, when asked how he could understand Garrick, he replied, His face
is his language (Arthur 1801, 186).
10. See Johnson (1775); Johnson and Boswell (1924) in which Johnson com-
ments on Braidwoods school on pages 14749 and Boswell remarks on the same
visit on page 430; Monboddo (1773) where, in book 1, chapter 14 That Artic-
ulation is not Natural to Man (p. 171ff.), he discusses the teaching of the deaf
people to speak and, in particular, comments on his personal experiences at
Braidwoods academy in Edinburgh; and Pennant (1774, 2568) for a descrip-
tion of Braidwood Academy.
11. John Goodricke (17641786) received his first education at The Braid-
wood Academy in Edinburgh and was reported as having by the assistance of
Mr Braidwood, . . . made surprising proficiency, becoming a very tolerable clas-
sic, and an excellent mathematician (quoted in Lang and Meath-Lang 1995,
150). He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society at the age of twenty-one and
received the prestigious Copley Medal for his methodical observations of the
changing qualities of key stars. He died two weeks after his election to the Royal
Society. See Lang and Meath-Lang (1995).
12. The letter is somewhat confusing because the writer, a Thomas Jefferson,
claims to have met Bolling in 1840. Thomas Bolling died in 1836. Either the
writers memory was vague about dates or he actually met William Bolling, the
nephew of Thomas Bolling, who had been educated in America by John Braid-
wood, Thomas Braidwoods grandson. Jefferson may have been told by William
that he had been educated by Mr. Braidwood of Edinburgh, not at Edinburgh.
13. On 21 May, 1662, Wallis had brought Daniel Whaley before the Royal
Society. Wallis recalls,
[Whaley] did in the presence of the society (to the great satisfaction of the Company)
pronounce very distinctly enough such words as were by the Company proposed to
him, and though not altogether in the usual Tone or Accent, yet so as easily to be un-
derstood. (Whaley to Oldenburg, July 11, 1670, quoted in Scott 1938, 85)

14. See Lane (1988) and, for an excellent discussion of the philosophical is-
sues associated with lEpes work, see Mirzoeff (1995).
15. Although Lane (1988) remains a vital and valuable source for informa-
tion on lEpe, numerous additional sources are available, as our own cataloging
of the Farrar Collection in the John Rylands Library in Deansgate, Manchester,
United Kingdom, has shown. The interpretation in this text is derived from these
primary sources.
16. As we have already indicated, lEpe was particularly influenced by the
philosophy of Condillac, the main interpreter of Locke in mid-eighteenth-century
France. LEpe therefore saw the deaf pupil as a tabula rasa whose intellect could
be developed through the sense of sight, particularly, through the language of
methodological signs, which provided access not only to language but also to
philosophical language.
120 a sociological history of discrimination

17. Ferdinand Berthier, the greatest deaf intellectual to come out of the Paris
institution wrote: Son gnie, planant sur la sphre des possibilits, a dj saisi ce
qui chappe aux regards vulgaires, et le globe entier retenria bientt des succs
inouis obtenus par ce grand homme laide de la mimique, cette langue uni-
verselle vainement cherche par les philosophes et par les savants de tous les
sicles et de tous les pays (Berthier circa 1870, 5).
18. See Bouilly (1801a, 1801b, 1802, 1803). The 1803 edition, in fact,
claims to be a translation by Benjamin Thompson from German of a play by
Augustus von Kotzebue. No mention is made either of von Kotzebues play being
a translation of that by Bouilly or of the English translation of 1801.
19. For discussions of the early history of aural surgery, see Wilde (1853),
Hartmann (1881), and Kerr Love (1896). For an example of claims to the cur-
ability of deafness by an influential surgeon in the first half of the nineteenth cen-
tury, see Curtis (1829, 1836, 1846), and for a discussion of such claims, see Day
(1835). For a balanced critique of Curtiss work and claims, see Wilde (1853,
36ff.). An illustration of the approach to aural surgery in the late-seventeenth
and early eighteenth centuries can be found in Du Verney (1737).
20. See, for example, Wilde (1853) and Curtis (1829).
21. For discussion of this much publicized case, see Itard (1817, 1932) and
Lane (1976).
5
The Great Confinement of
Deaf People through Education
in the Nineteenth Century

[W]e have the historical testimony of the British schools,


forcibly summed up by Professor Baker, as follows,
in correcting an error into which I had fallen:
You are wrong, says he, in considering the
English system as being based on articulation. I will go
further, and state that, as a system, it never was based
on articulation . . .
. . . In the earliest days of the institution at
Birmingham . . . articulation was the exception . . . at
present in [the London institution] . . . articulation
is by no means the exclusive vehicle of instruction. . . .
At . . . Edinburgh, . . . articulation . . . early gave
way to means more universally applicable. Of the other
institutions in these isles, (about twenty,) not one has
adopted articulation, except in the cases of those pupils
who could hear a little, or who had become deaf
after they had acquired speech.
Edward Miner Gallaudet quoting Charles Baker
(Gallaudet 1867, 4950)

The nineteenth century was a time of radical educational change


throughout the Western world and its colonies. The education of the
masses and not of only the privileged few became an essential ideological

121
122 a sociological history of discrimination

practice as a democratic polity asserted its control over the coordination


of newly industrialized economies. Here were the beginnings of those
normalizing strategies that we discussed in part one. To quote Foucault,
the school, like other disciplinary institutions

. . . traces the limit that will define difference in relation to all other differ-
ences, the external frontier of the abnormal. . . .The perpetual penalty that
traverses all points and supervises every instant in the disciplinary insti-
tutions compares, differentiates, hierarchizes, homogenizes, excludes. In
short, it normalizes. (Foucault 1979, 183)

Through the nineteenth century, the practice to contain children who


were poor and deaf in asylums for the purpose of their education was
even more complex as an ideological practice because, although it was
overtly oriented toward normalization, this containment was designed in
ways that, like the special schools discussed in chapter 2, never allowed
for complete normalization. Rather, through apparent normalizing
strategies, it ensured the oppositethe ongoing cultural construction of
deaf people as the pathological, as disabled.
The expansion or rapid development of schools for the deaf, which
were usually referred to as asylums or institutions, radically trans-
formed the general orientation toward deaf people and toward their
treatment. Unlike the children of wealthy parents, the children of poor
parents were dependent and vulnerable. Their bodies and souls were free
game. To varying degrees depending on the national, religious, and cul-
tural context, missionaries and surgeons became as much a part of their
education as the teachers themselves. In the process, their otherness
was culturally constructed in tune with the dominant ideologies of the
nineteenth century. Ideological commitment to reason; to scientism; to
the imperial domination of those deemed less civilized, less human,
abnormal; and to the achievement of social honor through the perform-
ance of good works all influenced the lives of deaf people.
In this chapter, we examine the philosophical and pedagogical devel-
opments that took place in the education of people who were deaf
through the nineteenth century. Initially, we will examine the way the
large-scale, institutionalized education of deaf people developed in
Britain and America. In the previous chapter, we have already com-
mented on events in France. Although equally important developments
occurred throughout the rest of Europe and beyond, the case studies
described here lay the ground for understanding the way relatively idio-
The Great Confinement 123

syncratic national developments in the first half of the nineteenth century


gave way, by the end of the century, to relative uniformity throughout
the Western world. These national developments were not independent
of one another but, rather, were formed and transformed in response not
only to national pressures but also to international pressures.
In the process, we will also question many of the interpretations of
the history of deaf education that have become virtually sacred writ in
the field of deaf studies: interpretations about manualism and oralism,
the so-called English System, the Milan Congress, the combined system,
and the varied use of signing. The French and American stories have
been told many times, but the British story tends to have been carica-
tured because of scant research. Basing her conclusions on available sec-
ondary sources, Crickmore states that by the mid-19th century, in
Britain, the oral German method had been almost totally overcome by
the use of the manual French Method for instructing the deaf students
(Crickmore 1995, 51). Britain certainly had not adopted the German
method and, as we shall show, did not experience a change from oral-
ism to some sort of manualism through the nineteenth century. British
schools certainly did not adopt the French method.1 We have already
established that Britains so-called oralist heritage attributed to Wallis,
Henry Baker, and Thomas Braidwood was, in fact, far from oralist in
method or orientation. What we will show is that developments through
the nineteenth century were distinctly British, that they can be under-
stood in terms of the teaching traditions outlined in the previous two
chapters, and that if Britain imported any methods from continental
Europe, it did not occur until the late-nineteenth century when British
oralists claimed to be using the German method. Of equal significance
in the late-nineteenth century was the introduction of the combined
method from America. But through the first three-quarters of the nine-
teenth century, developments were distinctly British.

Language, Literacy, and the Education of the Masses


The education of the masses rather than just the privileged was asso-
ciated above all with the spread of literacy, while at the same time aiding
the saving of souls by providing access to the word of God through
the Bible. Literacy levels became the hallmarks of progress at home
and of the spread of Western civilization abroad. But literacy did not
mean merely knowledge of a languages written form; it meant literacy
124 a sociological history of discrimination

in particular languages, in the languages of rational administration


and rational intellectual endeavor. Literacy meant literacy in a Western
language, and throughout vast areas of the globe, that language was
English.
For example, although subjects of the British Empire in India spoke
and wrote languages that had been vehicles for the transmission of
knowledge for millennia, the British Empire imposed English as the lan-
guage of education, often with the active support of Indian intellectuals
such as Ramohan Roy.2 British educators were convinced that English
was the perfect vehicle for the transmission and development of scien-
tific thought. English was assumed to be conceptually and structurally
superior, at least by the British, to all other languages but, particularly,
to the languages of minorities at home and abroad. Whether the devalu-
ation was of Hindi, of Bengali, of Welsh, of Gaelic, or of natural sign
languages, all these linguistic minorities at home and abroad suffered
the same linguistic imperialism. But in the case of deaf people, the lin-
guistic imperialism was compounded by discrimination against the
disabled.

Rounding Up the Deaf: Deaf Education in Britain


in the First Half of the Nineteenth Century
In the atmosphere of evangelical fervor and missionary zeal that gripped
Protestant Britain in the nineteenth century, people who were poor and
deaf provided wealthy people who were in the pursuit of social honor
and devout people who were seeking religious worth the opportunity to
exercise charity. When the Asylum for the Support and Education of the
Deaf and Dumb Children of the Poor was founded in Bermondsey in
London on 14 November 1792 and the first election took place, four
children were admitted along with two more in the course of the year.3
As would happen so often in the future, many deaf children and their
parents went away disappointed. At each half-yearly election, a commit-
tee examined candidates and determined who should be admitted. Only
a small number of those seeking admission were accepted mainly because
the school could not afford to admit more:

so melancholy were the lists of candidates at the half yearly admissions, that
the public began to see the extent of a malady till then almost unknown. In
some families the whole number of children were deaf and dumb, in others
half were thus afflicted; cases were numerous of five out of six, and it was
The Great Confinement 125

ascertained that in twenty families, containing one hundred and fifty-five


children, there were no fewer than seventy-eight deaf and dumb. (Townsend
1831, 39; Townsends italics)

Financial support for the school increased but so did the applications.
Townsend and Mason worked tirelessly to raise more support, and al-
though the Reverend Mason died in February 1804, three years later, on
11 July 1807, the Duke of Gloucester laid the first stone of a new build-
ing in the Old Kent Road. On that stone was the following inscription:

A SOCIETY TO PROVIDE EDUCATION FOR THE DEAF AND DUMB CHILDREN OF


INDIGENT PARENTS, WAS FIRST PROJECTED AND ESTABLISHED IN LONDON,
A.D. 1792, BY THE REV. JOHN TOWNSEND AND THE REV. HENRY COX MASON.
AND THIS FIRST STONE OF A NEW ASYLUM, BUILT BY VOLUNTARY CONTRIBU-
TIONS, WAS LAID ON THE 11TH OF JULY, IN THE YEAR OF OUR LORD 1807,
AND THE 47TH OF THE REIGN OF KING GEORGE III, BY HIS MAJESTYS NEPHEW,
HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS PRINCE WILLIAM, DUKE OF GLOUCESTER. (see Townsend
1831, 40)

By 1809, the building was complete and seventy pupils moved in. Origi-
nally designed for 150 pupils, it was enlarged to receive 180 and again to
receive 200. Townsend tirelessly toured the country preaching to raise
money, appealing to peoples humanity and sense of charity.
This time was an era during which charity became an honorable ac-
tivity, a sign of ones nobility of spirit as well as of ones honor and suc-
cess. Deaf people were seen as objects of pity, in need of charity. But
what made contributing to the school particularly satisfying to these
benefactors was the fact that the school achieved results that helped to
improve the quality of life and to achieve what had formerly been
thought impossible. So demonstrations of the achievements of the pupils
to existing and prospective benefactors were a vital aspect of raising
funds. The demonstrations were no longer for the Royal Society; the
focus, no longer philosophical. Rather, the demonstrations were for the
upper and middle classes, those with money to give to a worthy cause.
At these demonstrations, selected scholars not only demonstrated their
scholastic achievements but also performed for the gatherings by speak-
ing. Teaching deaf people to speak remained a vital drawing card. The
public still wanted miracles:

Several of the scholars were introduced to the company, after dinner, to


whom they showed their writing, ciphering, and exercise books, and an-
swered such questions as were put to them, both by writing and speaking.
126 a sociological history of discrimination

Townsend and Masons fund-raising efforts led to the establishment of the


Old Kent Road school in London.

Afterwards three of them recited verses to the company, who seemed much
pleased, and to understand them perfectly, for I observed that they ap-
plauded very much when the last speaker concluded. (Letter to Dr. Watson
by a former pupil, quoted in Townsend 1831, 47)

The belief that deaf people could be educated was no longer an issue,
though the methods used to achieve those ends were to excite continual
controversy.
The teaching of the catechism was central to the educational goals of
all the schools that sprang up throughout Britain. Among the wealthy,
literacy was a mark of their cultivated lifestyle, but when it was provided
for the poor, it was justified as providing access to the New Testament,
the path to salvation. Education was justified ideologically by means of
the ideology of equality. However, the potential contradiction wherein
the poor working class, who, by definition, were uncultured, were
achieving culture through literacy was deflected by a focus on the educa-
tion of poor people as a mission to save souls, like the education of the
savages of the New World with whom the deaf were often equated.
The Great Confinement 127

The education of wealthy people who were deaf remained something


of a private enterprise in which heads of schools were provided with the
opportunity to take private pupils. At the meeting in the Pauls Head
Tavern on Thursday, 30 August 1792, Joseph Watsons appointment as
teacher was confirmed, and the group decided that Watson should be al-
lowed 21/10/- per annum for each child, in return for which he would
be responsible for their education; for finding them lodging and suste-
nance; and for pens, ink, paper, and all necessary books.4 The group also
determined that he be allowed no more than eight private pupils at any
one time. These pupils were known as parlor pupils.
Although the education of the wealthy parlor pupils often involved
concentration on the teaching of speech, the education of the pupils
who were poor involved little if any speech training but proceeded
through sign language and fingerspelling, usually taught by deaf teach-
ers. As outlined above, wealthy people were equated with culture; poor
people, with nature, particularly, people who were deaf and poor, whose
natural sign language was a mark of their uncultured, uncivilized natural
qualities.
The fact that wealthy students were taught to speak, however, did not
mean that these parlor pupils were not educated also through the
medium of natural sign language.5 Natural sign language was used as a
medium of communication throughout the schools, as it had been at
least since Wallis. The deaf teacher and evangelist Mathew Burns had
been a parlor pupil under Joseph Watson in the early days of the Old
Kent Road school, and although he could speak, he was a fluent signer
and used natural sign language as the medium of instruction in his own
schools in Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and Bristol as well as later as in his role
as an influential missioner to adult deaf people. Francis Maginn, who
would play a vital role in the development of the British Deaf and Dumb
Association in the late-nineteenth century and who fought hard to estab-
lish the combined system in Britain as well as to train and employ deaf
teachers, had also been a parlor pupil at the Old Kent Road school under
Watson.6
The training of teachers and the spread of schools for deaf students
was made all the more practicable with the publication of Watsons
book, Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb; or a Theoretical and Practi-
cal View of the Means by Which They are Taught to Speak and Un-
derstand a Language; Containing Hints for the Correction of Impedi-
ments in Speech: together with a Vocabulary Illustrated by Numerous
128 a sociological history of discrimination

Joseph Watson, who had been


trained by Thomas Braidwood and
who taught at Braidwoods school,
was the first teacher and principal at
the Old Kent Road school.

Copperplates, representing the most common Objects necessary to be


named by Beginners (Watson 1809). In this vital set of books, Watson
not only outlined the philosophical principles on which his teaching
was based and the practical way in which teaching should proceed but
also provided a large illustrated vocabulary for use both in school and
by parents prior to formal schooling. He advocated that parents teach
elementary reading and writing by way of the picture vocabulary:

The plates of our vocabulary . . . present a field sufficiently amusing and in-
structive for the employment of such young learners, under maternal guid-
ance, even if they do nothing more than learn to distinguish the objects they
represent, by pointing them out. But I recommend the earliest possible use
of the pen, or rather, the slate and pencil, by which, and by the manual al-
phabet, the names of these objects may be learnt to be correctly spelt. (Wat-
son 1809, 133)

Watson recognized the vital importance of visual experience in the


education of deaf children and, thus, provided a rich visual experience
as a foundation on which the teacher could teach a vocabulary both
tangible and abstract. Those vibrant pictures became the basis for unlim-
ited stories and for discussions about verbs, adverbs, and adjectives
movements and qualities that are often difficult to convey unless they are
tangibly linked to visual experience.
Watson taught in the same manner as that described for Henry Baker
and the Braidwoods in which the students built a vocabulary and gram-
matical correctness in a grammatical knowledge of English by copying
The Great Confinement 129

Watsons book on deaf education


also included a large set of
illustrations, which facilitated
language development.

questions and replies and then were engaged by masters in conversation


on these matters. The subject matter was designed to provide knowledge
of a range of subjectsreligion, geography, general knowledge, science,
and so on (Watson 1809, 1820). When the reply needed to be in English,
the students used writing or fingerspelling, unless they were parlor pu-
pils, who might use articulation.
In the first half of the nineteenth century, the education of deaf stu-
dents began to expand and diversify as schools were established through-
out Britain and Ireland, employing many of the teachers trained by the
Braidwoods or Watson. Despite the fact that some schools rejected artic-
ulation whereas others focused increasingly on articulation, the British
approach to signing was fairly consistent. Educators did not attempt
to formalize natural signing into a language that complied with hearing
notions of grammatical language as the French were doing. The use of
fingerspelling was very heavy, but all except the Birmingham school
under Hopper and the schools in Belfast and Dublin in Ireland used the
130 a sociological history of discrimination

two-handed system rather than the one-handed system that was favored
for the teaching of speech.7 Signs were often equated with words and
were used individually as frozen signs. As we shall explain in more detail
in the next chapter, the conviction that education must be in and through
written English and that the use of signing in any form was simply a nec-
essary avenue to this goal, which was a dominant conviction in British
schools, resulted in British Sign Language remaining closer to a natural
language system than sign languages in France and the United States
where sign languages were artificial, having been developed lexically
and syntactically.

Education and the Cultural Construction of Deafness:


The Clinical Gaze on Deaf People in Britain

[A]lthough I admit that speech is a good and natural exercise for the lungs
and voice, I have never discovered that it is requisite for health; nor that the
pupils of an institution in which articulation is not taught have worse health
than those of one where it is an object of attainment. I must therefore decide
against giving up the time now bestowed on the acquisition of language and
useful knowledge by my pupils, to devote it to the specious acquirement of
articulation. (Charles Baker, quoted in Gallaudet 1867, 13)

In virtually all the English schools, the missionary orientation pre-


vailed, with teachers taking an active role in the spiritual lives of local
deaf communities. The influence of medical researchers on the schools
was more muted than in France. In 1800, the year that Sicard appointed
Itard at the Paris school, the committee of the newly established London
school in Bermondsey (before its move to the Old Kent Road) resolved

. . . that this Institution is established only for the purpose of instruction. It


is the opinion of the Committee that they cannot permit the pupils received
by them for education to be subjected to any medical treatment whatsoever
in regard to their deafness while in the Asylum. (quoted in Beaver 1992,
46)

Prominent teachers such as Charles Baker (Doncaster) and Robert Kin-


niburgh (Edinburgh) exposed the futility of attempts to cure congenital
deafness and opposed experimentation by surgeons such as Turnbull,
who claimed to have cured pupils who had attended their schools (Wilde
1853, 55ff.).
The Great Confinement 131

Some surgeons did seek to reproduce the direct alliance between edu-
cation and surgical experimentation that Itards much publicized work
embodied. Early in the century, John Harrison Curtis, the self-acclaimed
Aurist To Their Royal Highnesses The Duchess Of Kent [deaf] And The
Duchess of Gloucester, And Director And Surgeon To The Institution
(Curtis 1846) railed against the orientation toward deaf education prac-
ticed by lEpe and Sicard:8

Their object was to provide a substitute for speech; they set out with the
assumption, about which they appear never to have had the smallest doubt,
that the deaf and dumb were without the remotest chance of possessing the
faculties of hearing and speech . . . . (Curtis 1846, 37)

Curtis was mistaken about their attitude toward teaching speech but
claimed that most deafness occurring after birth is curable and quoted
Itard in support of his position. He was more cautious about criticizing
his contemporaries at the London school, but he did criticize the process
by which pupils were selected for admission, claiming in a letter to the
London school in 1817 that an aurist be appointed to inspect all infants
prior to admission and that admission be on medical grounds (43). In his
favor, and in contrast to contemporaries such as Cooper and Itard, Cur-
tis counseled caution in experimentation and opposed surgical treatment
unless absolutely necessary. Curtis was, in fact, more in the tradition of
the preceding century. He did not enter into the full spirit of the new age
of medicine with its focus on anatomy and the development of technolo-
gies for the surgical manipulation of the physical body.9
So although able-bodied poor people who did not work were con-
demned, disabled poor people were ideal objects for missionary work.
Deaf people were subjected, like those deemed insane, to contradictory
treatment. Missioners and educators, often one and the same, reflected
the moral therapy movement in their concern for uplifting deaf people
spiritually and morally so they could take their places alongside the
normal members of society.10 Their confinement was a confinement
oriented toward moral regeneration, which included the normalizing
process of education. Normalization through discipline was the driving
force. Like those who gathered the insane and disabled together in
asylums, the teachers of deaf students in the asylums for poor and deaf
people in Britain were concerned as much with the saving of souls as
with education. Their cures came through the power of literacy, a liter-
acy allowing access to the word of God.
132 a sociological history of discrimination

But as we shall see in the next chapter, just as the moral therapy
movement in the treatment of the insane gave way to more depersonal-
ized, individuated, and overtly medical orientations toward the profes-
sional treatment of unreason, so too was the overt, religiously inspired
benevolence of the early nineteenth century educators to give way to in-
dividuated, therapeutic treatment by professional teachers.
Unlike the situation in France, the surgeons did not use the schools as
research hospitals but conducted their experiments elsewhere. Nonethe-
less, they constantly saw their experimentation as integral to the educa-
tional process. The complex interweaving of benevolence, education,
and medical research at the beginning of the nineteenth century was em-
bodied in the writing and work of the Quaker physician John Coakley
Lettsom (17441815), the author of a popular three-volume publication
titled Hints Designed to Promote Beneficence, Temperance, and Medical
Science (Lettsom 1801). Section six dealt with Hints Respecting the
Support and Education of the Deaf and Dumb Children of the Poor
(95115). Lettsom, who studied in London and on the continent, gradu-
ating with an M.D. from Leyden in 1769, became a Fellow of the Royal
Society in 1771. He was a wealthy benefactor and philanthropist and
was involved in the development of facilities for poor people and in the
reform of prisons. He worked continuously as a medical practitioner
until his death. In the same philanthropical spirit, the great surgeon
William Wilde (18151876) who had studied aural and ophthalmic
surgery in London, Vienna, and Berlin, founded St Marks Ophthalmic
Hospital in Dublin.11 He provided free services to poor people with dis-
eases of the eye or ear and became the medical officer for the school for
the deaf in Dublin. His book Practical Observations on Aural Surgery
and the Nature and Treatment of Diseases of the Ear, with Illustrations
(Wilde 1853) contained not only a comprehensive history of the medical
treatment of deafness up to the mid-nineteenth century but also a history
of the education of the deaf. The extensive section on Deaf-Dumbness
was later printed separately. These surgeons were not only overtly in-
volved in the education of the deaf but also cast their clinical gaze
through lenses of benevolence.

Deaf Education in Nineteenth-Century America


Developments in eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Britain and
France were the backdrop against which the education of deaf people
The Great Confinement 133

was to develop in America. Again, a strong missionary focus took hold


in the orientation toward the education of the deaf, a complex mix of
British and French dispositions toward language and humanity:

The pervasiveness of religion, whether manifested in varieties of orthodox


or liberal Protestantism or, in a few notable instances, reformulated by
deists, determined the reception of European ideas in America. (Kloppen-
berg 1995, 371)12

In early nineteenth-century America, religious piety, practical philoso-


phy, and the exercise of democratic power, which were embodied in lead-
ers like John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, combined in an atmosphere
of overt egalitarianism. As discussed in chapter 2, this overtly religious
atmosphere that was coupled with a moral commitment to the ideology
of equality generated a discriminatory practice grounded in the assertion
that people were indeed equal but that they were also different, which
became the basis for ongoing inequalities determined by race, class, gen-
der, and ability. Baynton writes about the teachers of people who were
deaf in mid-nineteenth-century America:

They were apt to speak of their work as an adventure among a people so


different from the hearing that to live among them was to explore a rich and
profoundly mysterious world. Teaching deaf students was akin to mission-
ary work among unenlightened nations. It was, in short, a high and mo-
mentous undertaking. (Baynton 1996, 71; Bayntons italics)

The cultural construction and disablement of the deaf in the United


States followed a pattern not dissimilar from the basic trends outlined
previously for Britain and Francethe confinement, the stereotyping of
deaf people, the paternalismbut interpreted through the distinct cul-
ture of postrevolutionary America.
In 1815, when schools for people who were poor and deaf were estab-
lished in London, Birmingham, and Edinburgh, the Reverend Thomas
Gallaudet arrived in Britain as a familiar expression of the new age. Reli-
gious, pious, and full of benevolence toward those less fortunate than
himself, he condemned those who did not uphold the values that he and,
by no means he alone, so righteously proclaimed. Like people in all ages
and all places, he saw the values of his age and his culture as not only
right but also self-evident. He was also in a hurry.
Gallaudet was on a mission on behalf of a group of benefactors that
included the eminent surgeon Mason Cogswell of Hartford, Connectcut,
134 a sociological history of discrimination

to learn the latest techniques for educating deaf children so a school for
deaf children could be established in America. His meetings with Watson
in London, Braidwood in Birmingham, and Kinniburgh in Edinburgh did
not yield the results he had hoped for. He claimed that they refused to re-
veal their teaching methods, but in reality, he was not prepared for a long
apprenticeship as a teacher in one of the schools. At that time, teacher
training involved learning through active participation in the teaching
process over many years.
Teachers, including deaf teachers, were being trained in all institu-
tions. As for revealing methods, Joseph Watson, six years earlier in 1809,
had published his Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb; or a Theoretical
and Practical View of the Means by Which They are Taught to Speak and
Understand a Language; Containing Hints for the Correction of Impedi-
ments in Speech: together with a Vocabulary Illustrated by Numerous
Copperplates, representing the most common Objects necessary to be
named by Beginners. At the same time, John Braidwood was teaching
deaf students in the United States in Virginia and would soon, in 1817,
very successfully train the Reverend John Kirkpatrick to carry on the
Braidwood familys method of educating deaf students. On 14 October
1815, John Braidwoods mother (Thomas Braidwoods daughter Isa-
bella) wrote to him from London as follows:

We were very much surprised and rather alarmed lately by the application
of a Gallaydett [sic] from Connecticut, he informed your brother that he
had been sent over by some gentlemen who wished to form an Institution
for Deaf and Dumb and he wished to receive instruction in our art. Hav-
ing flattered ourselves that you were long ere this established, we have felt
much at a loss to acct [account] for this event, and trusting that you are in
life and in the practice of your profession we have judged it proper to have
no concern with him, but we have recommended his making application to
you. (Braidwood Papers)

The Braidwoods were therefore concerned as to why Gallaudet had not


sought Johns services in America. Gallaudet wrote to Cogswell:

The mother of Mr Braidwood who is in America, will be much obliged by


any information you can give me respecting him. Do take some pains to do
this. I wish to oblige her, and write all you know of him, be it good, bad or
indifferent. (Braidwood Papers)
The Great Confinement 135

The Braidwoods agreed to reveal their methods to Gallaudet, providing


he remained in Britain to train at one of the schools and serve a three-
year apprenticeship as others had done. Gallaudet was advised to return
to America and seek the services of John Braidwood. Gallaudet wrote to
Cogswell outlining his knowledge of Johns departure from Edinburgh,
assuming him to have left in disgrace and to be a dissipated character of
little consequence (Bell 1900a, 39798).
While in London, Gallaudet met the abb Sicard, who was in London
lecturing and exhibiting his star pupils Massieu and Clerc. Impressed
by their achievements, Gallaudet asked to visit the Paris Institute. He
was welcomed and, so, abandoned his mission in Britain to seek greater
satisfaction with Sicard in Paris.
Whether or not Watson and others extended Gallaudet the courtesy
he deserved or felt he deserved is one thing, but the historical reality is
rather different from the myth. Watson was, in fact, out of town when
Gallaudet first sought to visit the Old Kent Road school and was later
not able to provide Gallaudet with the attention he desired at short no-
tice. Despite the mystification about the method perpetrated by Thomas
and Isabella Braidwood, the method was not a secret but had been
both published and passed on to a range of teachers beyond the Braid-
wood family by the time Gallaudet arrived in Britain. Neither the
teachers involved nor the Braidwoods themselves were using the method
exclusively or even primarily for their own pecuniary benefit.
The method in question was being used in schools for children who
were poor and deaf, and only a small minority were being taught as pri-
vate pupils. William Hunter, the first deaf teacher trained in Britain to
teach deaf students and a teacher at the Old Kent Road school, was in
fact trained by a deaf man, John Creasy, between 1802 and 1804, more
than a decade before Gallaudet arrived in London. Creasy himself was
not a teacher but learned the art as a pupil at Braidwoods academies in
Edinburgh and London (Lee 1997, 7). Creasys mother was instrumental
in the establishment of the school for people who were poor and deaf in
London. The training of teachers was taken seriously, and a long appren-
ticeship was assumed to be required. It is important to note that al-
though Gallaudet might have been welcomed more cordially by Sicard
than by Sicards friend Joseph Watson, he gained no more than a cursory
knowledge of the French method but, rather, took an expert, Laurent
Clerc, with him to America to provide the expertise and to train others.
136 a sociological history of discrimination

During his time in Europe, the Reverend Thomas Gallaudet


only gained a cursory knowledge of the French method in
instructing deaf students and brought an expert, Laurent
Clerc, back to America.

Gallaudet had been informed that John Braidwood was already in the
United States and could provide the expertise that Laurent Clerc eventu-
ally provided.

John Braidwood and the First


School for the Deaf in America
Whether or not John Braidwood was the drunkard as he has been la-
beled by educational experts in the United States todayand there seems
little doubt that he was prone to wandering off on binges without warn-
inghe was an effective, skilled, and popular teacher, as William Albert
Bollings notebooks bear witness. He also proved himself to be a good
teacher trainer. In 1817, when Braidwood returned penniless from one of
his wanderings, the school for the deaf was moved from Cobbs, Virginia,
to Manchester, Virginia, in association with the classical school for
young ladies run by the Reverend John Kirkpatrick in the Masonic
Building in Manchester. An advertisement in local newspapers in July
1817 included the following statement:

His [Braidwoods] stay in Virginia it is expected will be but temporary, yet


of such continuance as will afford him an opportunity of rendering impor-
tant service to such Pupils as may be immediately placed under his tuition
and also of communicating to Mr Kirkpatrick that knowledge of his profes-
The Great Confinement 137

sion, as will efficiently qualify him to manage and complete the Education
of such children, after Mr Braidwoods departure from the State. (quoted
in Bell 1900a, 493)

Apparently at that stage, Braidwood had expected to become involved


with the New York School; the directors there were looking for a person
acquainted with the Braidwood system to take charge. The New York
School was planned at that time but did not open until 1818.
Whatever Braidwoods personal problems, he trained Kirkpatrick suc-
cessfully. By March 1818, when Braidwood again became unreliable,
Kirkpatrick carried on the school on his own. By September, he was ad-
vertising the school as his and was offering a classically Braidwood-style
education. Kirkpatrick set up his school and taught with success in Man-
chester until mid-1819 when, soon after being ordained, he moved to
Cumberland County, Virginia. He appears to have continued with the
education of deaf students, but the illness and then early death of his wife
ended his work as a teacher of deaf people.13
Gallaudet stayed in Paris for a few months, and although he learned
little of the techniques of instruction, he secured the services of Laurent
Clerc who, after signing a contract with Gallaudet, set off with Gallaudet
to America to establish the school in Hartford, Connecticut. Ironically,
Clerc signed a contract including

a prohibition for three years against activities that might jeopardize the suc-
cess of the Hartford school; that is Clerc was not to assist potential com-
petitors, sell his services to any other establishment, or give any instruc-
tion or public lectures . . . except under the direction of Mr Gallaudet.
(Van Cleve and Crouch 1989, 39)

Although Gallaudet had branded the Braidwoods protection of their


methods unreasonable, he imposed the same restrictions on his own
teacher, and [i]n January of 1817, with the American School [in Con-
necticut] nearly ready to open, Gallaudet and Clerc journeyed to New
York to attempt to block the establishment there of a potential rival
(Van Cleve and Crouch 1989, 43).

The Development of Methodological Signs in America


Despite Gallaudet and Clercs efforts, rival schools were successfully
established:
138 a sociological history of discrimination

By 1843, six states had followed Connecticuts example and provided for
state-supported or state-operated residential schools for deaf children: New
York in 1818, Pennsylvania in 1820, Kentucky in 1823, Ohio in 1827, Vir-
ginia in 1838, and Indiana in 1843. Persons trained in the American School
in Connecticut were instrumental in the early success of every one of these
institutions. Like the school in Hartford, each of these was staunchly man-
ual in its approach. . . . (Van Cleve and Crouch 1989, 47)
Staunchly manual they were, but the manualism used in the schools
was formed and transformed by the demands of reason, as the natu-
ral deaf were cultured through the acquisition of the English lan-
guage. The signing that was first used in the American schools was
modeled on the methodological signs used in the Paris school. The stu-
dents were neither using nor learning natural sign languages as media
of instruction. The system of fingerspelling was changed from the two-
handed system brought by immigrants to the one-handed system fa-
vored originally by teachers of articulation.14 The use of fingerspelling
to spell out English was extremely widespread, and any signing that de-
veloped in the context of schooling was geared to the needs and form
of English.
Edwin Manns discussion of developments in the Hartford and New
York schools in the 1830s (Mann 1836) indicates how the schools were
involved, through the influence of Vaysee (sic) from the institution of
Paris and of Peet from Hartford, in the decreasing use of the complex
system of methodological signs and the development of a single sign
dialect in the schools for the deaf and dumb on this continent (Mann
1836, 178). Peet himself indicated later that the move away from a sign-
for-a-word system of methodological signs toward greater use of finger-
spelling and the development of initialized signs owed much to De
Grando (Peet 1868, 49).
The problems associated with these language policies will be discussed
in the following chapter. Much of the current literature on the history of
the use of sign languages in deaf education reads like a spaghetti western,
a history populated by goodies and baddies, by manualists and oralists.
In fact, the situation was far more complex. But in all these varied edu-
cational environments within and beyond national boundaries, the use
and abuse of natural sign language continued to reflect the forming and
transforming relations of symbolic power.
In addition, deaf people in America, like those in Britain, France, and
elsewhere, were being confined and categorized as a unitary and patho-
logical presence. For many of those deaf people, the schools provided
The Great Confinement 139

them with access to one another and to the wider world, opening up un-
thought-of horizons, thus, demonstrating the contradictory nature of the
educational process. At the same time, people who were deaf were being
culturally constructed as equal but different, all sharing a unitary differ-
ence, a difference that was soon to be identified as disabled. Although
most had experienced the hardships of individual discrimination before,
they were now to experience a shared discrimination, being discrimi-
nated against as a category of humanity, as deaf and disabled.

The Cultural Construction of Rational


Order: The Role of Deaf Teachers in
the Early Mass Education of the Deaf
During the early nineteenth century in Britain, France, and America, and
later in Australia, the use of signing in its various forms as the mode of
communication between teachers and pupils promoted the employment
of deaf teachers. In some cases, the deaf teachers were employed as assis-
tants; in other cases, they were full-fledged teachers in their own right; and
in other situations, they were principals of schools and sometimes their
founders. The use of deaf teachers was, in part, born of necessity; in part,
a recognition of the intelligence and skill of the educated deaf person; and
in part, a measure of the level and orientation of the education that was
seen as appropriate for students who were poor and deaf as opposed to
wealthy people who were deaf. The anonymous author of Townsends
Memoirs wrote: It is now . . . proved that those afflicted objects of our
sympathy, are not only capable of being taught but of conveying instruc-
tion to others (Townsend 1831, 47). Watson himself wrote,

I have found, by experience, that one deaf person may be employed to teach
another with the happiest effect. So much so, that when I happen to be, for
the moment, at a loss to make one of slow apprehension understand a les-
son, I turn him over to one of his schoolfellows, who has learnt it; and never
without advantage to both. (Watson 1809, xxxvii)

In 1804, Watson employed one of his own former pupils, William


Hunter, who was one of the original class of six of 1792 and the first
of many deaf teachers. For the next eighty years, deaf teachers were to
work in schools throughout Britain, usually as low-paid assistants, but as
in France, they were important role models for their pupils and the lead-
ers of an emerging community. A few deaf teachers were to establish and
head their own schools for deaf students.
140 a sociological history of discrimination

In the history of British schools for the deaf, three deaf principals
emerge. In each case, they administrated small schools, either on their
own or with support from a family member (wife or sister). In 1832, a
deaf Scot, Matthew Burns, originally educated at the Old Kent Road
school in London, advertised the opening of a day school for Teaching
the DEAF and DUMB who have no other means of Instruction, in Edin-
burgh and its vicinity. His assistant was a deaf man by the name of
Drysdale. Drysdale had been educated at the Edinburgh school and had
trained as a pupil-teacher under Kinniburgh where he met the future
Mrs. Drysdale, also an assistant to Kinniburgh. In 1834, Burns was ap-
proached to become headmaster of the Aberdeen school where he stayed
until 1841. From there, he moved with his hearing sister to become the
foundation principal of the Bristol school. He stayed in Bristol only
eighteen months before giving up teaching to become a full-time mis-
sionary to deaf people in London.
Drysdale meanwhile continued successfully to run the day school in
Edinburgh. On his marriage in 1846, he and his wife moved to Dundee
where the need for a school had been felt. There, using their own funds,
they established a school in Meadow Street Dundee, which was opened
on 9 March 1846, and also established a regular Sunday service for deaf
adults of Dundee. After four years, Drysdale built new premises at Dud-
hope Bank and moved in with his deaf pupils. One year after the estab-
lishment of the school, a group of philanthropic men established the
Dundee Association for the Education of the Deaf and Dumb. This or-
ganization found funds to cover fees and board for children who were
deaf and poor and also paid rent on the house. The funds were therefore
controlled separately by the association, the meetings of which Drysdale
did not usually attend. He and his wife were left to develop the curricu-
lum and teach the children.
The case of the Dundee school is revealing. The board of benefactors
showed no inclination to interfere in the schooling of the deaf pupils.
Their concern was with being benefactors, with the pursuit of charitable
works. They were concerned with providing facilities for the education
of the other, not with transforming the students into hearing people.
Drysdale remained as principal of the school and as missioner to the deaf
people of Dundee until his death in 1880, a period of thirty-five years.
After his death, his wife continued the school for a short period on her
own before asking the Board of the Dundee Association for the Educa-
tion of the Deaf and Dumb to appoint James Barland (also deaf) as the
The Great Confinement 141

Matthew Burns was one


of three deaf headmasters
in the history of British
schools for deaf children.

new principal. Barland, Drysdales nephew, had trained with him as a


pupil-teacher, having also been educated at the school. He gave up his
teaching position at Swansea and returned to Dundee. The school later
came under the aegis of the British School Board, discussed in the fol-
lowing chapter; its teachers were hearing and its orientation was oral.
Many other qualified deaf teachers also had trained under the pupil-
teacher system. The Edinburgh school under Kinniburgh used a pupil-
teacher method of training. Alexander Atkinson recounts in his memoirs
how Joseph Turner was employed as an assistant from approximately
1816 (Atkinson 1865, 97ff.). Drysdale also trained in this way as did
Thomas Pattison who later founded the school for the deaf in Sydney,
Australia. In addition, the Old Kent Road school supported many of its
early teaching needs using the pupil-teacher scheme. During the first fifty
years, the majority of its teachers were deaf as old scholars turned into
young teachers, taken out of one class to be put in charge of another
(Elliott 1911). The first female deaf teacher was appointed in 1837, and
a second, Mary Ann Cattermole, was appointed one year later (Brown
1994, 11).
The use of deaf teachers was seen as desirable in the interests of effec-
tive educational achievements. Where deaf teachers were employed, sign-
ing was usually the medium of instruction, and the object was to achieve
a good basic education in literacy and numeracy. Students were thereby
provided with access to the word of God and were also provided with the
possibility of active employment. The deaf teachers were in no way anom-
alous because no attempt was made to transform the pupils into anything
other than deaf people. The students were at school to become educated
deaf people, and deaf teachers were often the most effective instructors.
However, despite the skills of these teachers, they did not receive pro-
motion. Why? Those governing the schools assumed that these teachers
142 a sociological history of discrimination

The Edinburgh Institute for the Deaf and Dumb where


Kinniburgh trained many deaf students.

needed the supervision of hearing superiors and that they were relevant
only in the teaching of a basic education. The British system used natural
sign language as a mode of communication but regarded written and
spoken English as the language of education. Thus, deaf teachers were
not seen as possessing the complete range of language skills required of
a full-fledged, autonomous teacher. A few exceptions occurred, but on
the whole, the deaf teachers remained as assistants, were lowly paid, and
were assumed incapable of the range of competencies possessed by com-
petent hearing teachers.
In 18411842, nine deaf teachers and only three hearing teachers
taught at the Old Kent Road school. By 1851, the situation had been re-
versed, with the number of deaf teachers down to four and the num-
ber of hearing teachers up to eight. Although the drop in the number of
deaf teachers was mainly caused by their deaths, the school made few
attempts to replace them or to train others. By 1873, only Banton re-
mained as a deaf teacher at the school. This situation caused concern
because of problems involved with supervising the students, particularly
after hours; therefore, the Committee of the Asylum decided to appoint
another pupil-teacher to be trained by Banton.
The situation in Britain in the 1870s contrasted markedly with what
was happening in America where the establishment in 1864 of the Na-
tional Deaf Mute College, now Gallaudet University, in Washington,
D.C., consolidated the higher education of deaf people, or rather, white
The Great Confinement 143

deaf men (see Winzer 1993, 234ff.), educating them for potential entry
to teaching posts. These men filled positions in the manual schools
whereas mainly women taught in the oral schools.15 But even in America,
deaf teachers, despite their large numbers and the high standard of
their education, were paid less than hearing teachers and were denied
the same levels of authority and autonomy. It was said that even a well-
educated deaf person had inherent limitations . . . (Winzer 1993, 245).
The 1860s in Australia provide an interesting additional case study.
Very much an offshoot of British traditions, formal education for deaf
people began in Australia in 1860 with the establishment of schools in
Sydney and Melbourne. Both were founded by educated deaf men, the
Sydney school by Thomas Pattison, who had trained as a teaching assis-
tant in Edinburgh under Kinniburgh, and the Melbourne school by Fred-
erick John Rose, a former pupil of the school in the Old Kent Road. The
Sydney school was taken over very swiftly by a hearing principal, Samuel
Watson, who soon introduced articulation classes. In Melbourne, Rose
remained in firm control of the school until the 1880s when hearing ad-
ministrators and teachers began to override his authority and insist on
the introduction of oralism into the school, at least, for selected pupils.
Schools in Australias other state capitals were established by the end of
the century, most being founded by former pupils and teachers from the
Melbourne school. Samuel Johnson arrived in Melbourne from England
in the late 1870s with ideas of establishing oral classes; however, he
failed because of Roses opposition and left Melbourne for Adelaide
where he established a school using a version of the combined method.
All schools had oral classes by the late 1880s, but they did not reject the
use of signs until after the Second World War.
Until the late-nineteenth century in Australia, as in Britain and Amer-
ica, the focus of the educational process for deaf students was on the ed-
ucation of deaf people qua deaf people and on their spiritual well-being.
Educators did not attempt to transform them into hearing people. The
use of signing and of deaf teachers was considered appropriate to their
sensibilities and identities.

Beyond the Schools: Deaf Teachers, Deaf Missioners,


and the Development of Deaf Communities
In the previous chapter, in commenting on the disabling aspects of lEpes
legacy in France, we pointed out that in Catholic, postrevolutionary
144 a sociological history of discrimination

In 1860, an educated deaf man,


Frederick John Rose, established
one of the first Australian schools
for the deaf in Melbourne.

France, where poor people were the heroes of the hour, the potential cre-
ativity of all citizens was acknowledged, and deaf intellectuals and artists
emerged. As a result, decades earlier than in Britain, an educated deaf
community emerged that focused on the needs of deaf people and on the
development of institutions catering to the needs of adult deaf people.
Eventually in Britain and America, deaf teachers along with deaf mis-
sioners also became the important leaders in the development of deaf
communities, playing instrumental roles to set up services for adult deaf
people.16 In London, the early leaders were the teachers and former
pupils of the Old Kent Road school, who met in London in 1840 to es-
tablish social and religious services for adult deaf people and who soon
were to be under the fervently evangelical leadership of the former
founder-principal of the Bristol school for the deaf, Matthew Burns. In
Paris, teachers like Massieu, Clerc, and Berthier actively fought for the
rights of deaf pupils and adults. Berthier, in particular, was instrumental
not only in establishing the Comit des Sourds-Muets, which established
the famous annual Banquets in memory of lEpe (the first held in 1834),
but also in advocating a deaf-mute nation (Mirzoeff 1995, 119).17 In
America, deaf teachers like the Tillinghasts together with former pupils
of schools founded formal and informal deaf associations throughout the
country (see Van Cleve and Crouch 1989). In addition, Joseph A. Till-
inghast, one of the sons of the deaf teacher David Tillinghast, went to
northern Ireland at Maginns request to develop Irish deaf education
through the combined method.18 In Australia, from 1860 and continuing
for sixty years, former Old Kent Road pupil Frederick John Rose, the
founder-principal of the school for the deaf in Melbourne, was, within
his school and then beyond in the wider community, the driving force be-
The Great Confinement 145

hind the development of services for deaf people of all ages (see Branson
and Miller 1996a).
These developments beyond the schools also demonstrated the general
nineteenth-century ideological willingness to recognize deaf people as
having a deaf identity. Churches for the Deaf and Associations for the
Deaf focused on the needs of deaf people qua deaf people. Hearing peo-
ple generally remained in control of these institutions, and all institu-
tions had a disabling effect insofar as they continued to define deaf peo-
ple in terms of suffering a lack or needing charity. But deaf people were
allowed to be deaf. The only attempt to transform them involved, like
the native inhabitants of the Empire, saving their souls and civilizing
their minds while ensuring that they remained other. They were still an
accepted aspect of humanity, part of the social and cultural fabric, albeit
defined as defective and disabled.
But toward the end of the nineteenth century, the cultural construc-
tion of deaf people as disabled was to undergo radical transforma-
tions. The focus was to shift from the education of deaf people as deaf
people to the transformation of deaf people into disabled hearing indi-
viduals. Medical and pedagogical forces oriented toward pure oralism
and speech therapy would begin to influence points of view. Their tri-
umph was some way off, but as Western societies generally moved to-
ward professionalism and bureaucratic administration, they provided
the means whereby the pedagogical aspirations of a minority of educa-
tors would triumph over the majority.
To understand these complex and interweaving processes, we turn
first to consider how evolutionism and eugenics influenced and trans-
formed attitudes toward deaf people. We then trace the ideological tri-
umph, though never the complete practical triumph, of pure oralism in
Britain. We consider this triumph in the context of new forms of linguis-
tic imperialism as the widespread use and abuse of natural sign lan-
guages in deaf education was replaced with an increasing ban on the use
of any form of signing.

Notes
1. The effect of French methods was restricted to the Cabra schools in
Dublin, Ireland.
2. As we shall see, the same was true of deaf education, with deaf people
such as Abraham Farrar, who actively supported pure oralism (see chapter 6),
and Francis Maginn, who was a driving force in the promotion of the combined
method (see chapter 7).
146 a sociological history of discrimination

3. For further discussion of the founding of the school in Bermondsey, see


Lee and Hay (n.d.) and Beaver (1992).
4. Pauls Head Tavern was a coffeehouse opposite the Guildhall in London.
Seventeenth-century philosophers had met in the London coffeehouses to discuss
language and education. Pepys had met in these coffeehouses with Wallis and
others. The foundation of the London school continued in this tradition.
5. For a description of the education of a parlor pupil, see Raymond Lees
discussion of the education of the deaf barrister John William Lowe (Lee 1999).
6. Maginn was to study for four years at the Columbia Institution (now
Gallaudet University) where he established strong links with Edward Miner
Gallaudet. He will feature prominently in later chapters.
7. Hopper introduced the one-handed alphabet into the classroom after vis-
its to continental schools that convinced him of its greater efficiency for use in
the classroom. In Dublin, the Catholic school established in 1846 by the Society
for Founding and Maintaining the Catholic Institution for the Deaf and Dumb
used a one-handed alphabet based on the French manual alphabet used by
lEpe (see E. M. Gallaudets report on methods used in Britain and Ireland in
the Tenth Annual Report of the Columbia Institution for 1867 [Gallaudet 1867,
14]). On his 1867 tour of institutions in Britain and Europe, Gallaudet visited
schools in Britain, Ireland, France, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, and Italy. In
reporting on his visit, he classified the schools in terms of their methods of in-
struction: (1) the natural method, using the natural sign language of the
pupils and no articulation; (2) the artificial method or oralism; and (3) the
combined method using elements of manualism and oralism. He visited only
nine schools using the natural method. Five of these were in Britain and three
in Ireland. Only one was to be found in Europe, in Switzerland (Gallaudet
1867).
8. Curtis established the first hospital devoted to diseases of the ear in Soho
in London in 1816. The hospital later became the Royal Ear Hospital (see Porter
1997, 385).
9. Extremely critical of Curtis, who he saw as incompetent and who he con-
sidered to be a plagiarist, Wilde describes Curtiss methods through the writings
of a [unidentified] foreigner:
Curtis, says the writer, treats every discharge from the ear exclusively, and in a sum-
mary way, by means of astringents; obstructions of the Eustachian tube, with emetics
and perforation of the membrana tympan; whilst, in spite of all the entreaties of Saissy,
he has never once practised catheterism of the Eustacian tube on the living subject. He
makes tinnitus the chief symptom of nervous deafness, which he treats with purgatives,
especially calomel, as long as the strength of the patient holds out. In all doubtful
cases the chief attention is directed merely to ascertain whether the liquor Cotunnii be
partially or totally deficient!! or whether hardened wax exist in the meatus. In the
otitis of children he sticks opium into the affected ear, &c., so that throughout all his
writings nothing but the most crude empiricism is to be met with; and yet among his
compatriots, as well as abroad, Curtis generally possesses the reputation of being a dis-
tinguished aurist. (Wilde 1853, 36)
The Great Confinement 147

10. The term missioner was used widely in the United Kingdom and
Australia throughout the nineteenth century. It referred to those in charge of a
mission, an institution, and not just to a vocation. Retired teachers often turned
to missionary workfor example, Matthew Burns, William Stainer, and David
Buxtonsee chapter 6.
11. William Wilde was the father of the celebrated novelist, playwright, and
poet Oscar Wilde, who was later to rail against the dependence of many services
in Britain on charity (Wilde 1966, 1079).
12. For discussion of the missions to the deaf in America, see Berg (1984).
13. As indicated in a letter to Alexander Graham Bell from Kirkpatricks
daughter, the original being in the Volta Bureau, Washington, D.C.
14. See Thornton (1793) for a description of the use of the two-handed al-
phabet by deaf people in America in the late-eighteenth century, and see Stedt
and Moores (1990) for discussion of the development of signing in educational
contexts.
15. By 1901, eight deaf teachers were teaching in Britainone in each of the
following institutions: Belfast, Dundee, Edinburgh, Donaldsons Hospital (Edin-
burgh), Glasgow School Board evening class, Leeds school board, Liverpool, and
Swansea. At the same time, 243 deaf teachers and principals were working in
America (Newsletter of the British Deaf and Dumb Association 1901, 10).
16. For an account of the work of deaf missioners in the United States, such
as H. W. Syle and A. W. Mann, as well as of the work of Reverend Dr. Thomas
Gallaudet, brother of Edward Miner Gallaudet, see Berg (1984).
17. For a description of the 1835 banquet, see Berthier (1852).
18. Letters between Joseph Tillinghast and Francis Maginn in the Gallaudet
University Archives.
6
The Alienation and Individuation of
Deaf People: Eugenics and Pure Oralism
in the Late-Nineteenth Century

In chapter 2, we discussed how professionalism and the depersonaliza-


tion of disabilities generally affected the way that people regarded and
treated those who were deemed to be disabled. The medical definitions
that defined deafness and deaf people themselves as pathological and in
need of treatment were transforming the educational goals and orien-
tations maintained by hearing teachers, parents, and benefactors. The
moral therapy movement with its personal even familial approach to
the treatment of those deemed insane was replaced by diagnoses and
treatments that divorced the individual from society and dealt with
symptoms rather than with the whole person. Similarly, the mission-
oriented approach that characterized the education of deaf students
throughout most of the of the nineteenth century would be replaced
with an approach that sought to transform pupils by overcoming their
symptomsdeafness and mutenessthrough lipreading, technological
developments in hearing aides, and speech training. Again, the main
agency of this process was professionalism. Professionalizing teachers
of the deaf was a process that not only reoriented the teaching process
but also drove the deaf teachers from the classrooms and challenged the
authority of deaf people in other walks of life, including that of deaf
missioners.

148
Eugenics and Pure Oralism 149

Forces of professionalism would encompass the teaching of deaf stu-


dents in the same way they encompassed the treatment of other forms of
unreason. The new scientific professionals who emerged through the
later half of the nineteenth century would distance themselves from indi-
vidual suffering by conceptually separating the patient from his or her
condition. In the same way, through this professional approach by
teachers of the deaf, deafness became a pathological syndrome to be
measured and dealt with therapeutically, with the teaching process itself
becoming part of that therapy. Hence, we turn to the years through the
second half of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth
century to document the rise and consolidation of professions that were
formed to deal specifically with the culturally constructed field of dis-
abilities, including the deaf, and with the accompanying technop-
oly as Postman (1993) calls itthe subordination of people to technol-
ogy, a process that consolidates and accentuates the alienation of the
disabling condition from the individual.
Margret Winzer writes:

When Laurent Clerc (17851869) first stepped onto American shores, no


public special institutions existed in the young nation except for a small
hospital for the insane in Virginia. By the time of Clercs death a flourishing
complex of institutions reached across North America. To Clerc, the term
special education would not have been familiar; it would not emerge until
1884. But Clerc was intimately associated with efforts to assist exceptional
students with settings and programs designed to cater to their unique needs.
(Winzer 1993, 83; Winzers italics)

Clerc certainly would not have seen deaf people as one with the insane,
as disabled people in need of special education, nor would he have
agreed with euphemistic references to the disabled as exceptional stu-
dents. That unitary and benevolent orientation toward handicapped
people was a result of the next hundred years of cultural develop-
ment, developments that lumped a host of what would have been for
Clerc or Gallaudet or Watson strange bedfellows indeedthe insane, the
deaf, the blind, feeble-minded youth, idiotic and feeble-minded chil-
dren, and mentally retarded childrenas handicapped people in
need of special education. The lumping of these people together was
directly linked to the evolutionist and eugenicist consciousness that per-
vaded Western societies.
150 a sociological history of discrimination

Darwinism, Evolutionism, and


the Devaluation of Signing
As we outlined in chapter 1, Darwins theories of biological evolution
generated a range of theories about social and cultural evolution. These
theories not only sought to understand the stages through which socie-
ties had passed in evolving toward their present state but also sought
to classify existing races and cultures in terms of the stages they had
reached in the overall evolution of humanity. Western industrial societies
were assumed to be most evolved and hunter-gatherer societies such as
those of Australian aboriginal people to be least evolved.
By the end of the nineteenth century, the evolution of language was
of particular interest to evolutionist anthropologists such as Edward
Tylor. Theorizing about the origins of language, Tylor claimed that ges-
ture was the earliest form of language and that speech developed at a
later date. Gestural systems of communication, thus, were seen as prim-
itive, as lower on the evolutionary scale than spoken languages. Al-
though evaluations of sign languages as savage and basic were not
newthey were evident in the earlier writing of Joseph Watson in Britain
and those of lEpe, Sicard, and De Grando in Francethe evolutionists
reinforced the existing linguistic imperialism in a new way. Signing,
whether natural or methodological, was evaluated as primitive and sav-
age, as having no value in a civilized, advanced society.1 This appraisal
was a starkly different evaluation of signing from that of seventeenth-
century Britain or eighteenth-century France.
The excitement that Wilkins, Dalgarno, and then lEpe felt on dis-
covering the sign languages of deaf people, seeing in them a pathway to
the development of the perfect language, gave way to imperial disdain.
The perfect language was no longer possibly a gestural system but was
assumed to be a Western spoken and written language of science and
learning. Gestural systems were used by savages and deaf mutes.
The use of signing was thus seen as a retrograde step. The move to pure
oralism throughout the Western world could therefore be interpreted as
an evolutionary step up, a step away from savagery. Thus, the arch-
oralist Susanna Hull could write in 1877:

Spoken language is the product of agesthe workmanship of many minds;


one of the cornerstones of civilization and the crown of history. Indeed,
without it, history, such as we have it, could never have been.
Eugenics and Pure Oralism 151

When, therefore, we give our deaf children a sign-language, we give


them an instrument for expressing their thoughts, but a very poor and fee-
ble one. We push them back in the worlds history to the infancy of our
race. They may, as French-system teachers love to boast, be understood,
to some extent, by American Indians and other savage tribes! But shall
sons and daughters of this nineteenth century be content with this? (Hull
1877, 236)

However, we cannot begin to consider how and why pure oralism


triumphed over various manual systems through the twentieth century
until we look more deeply at the effect that evolutionism had not only on
the language of deaf education but also on the evaluation and treatment
of deaf people in general. For the Darwinists and the evolutionists, the
laws of nature needed to be harnessed to ensure effective human devel-
opment. Evolutionist control over the natural development of humans
received explicit expression in eugenics. Thus, we must now consider the
eugenics movement in relation to the cultural construction of deaf people
as disabled. The eugenics movement was a prime ideological force in the
construction of deafness as an individual pathology, a medical condition
rendering the individual unfit. In a particularly forceful way, it ex-
pressed an aspect of the definition of deafness that is often ignoredthat
of deafness as a medical pathology to be dealt with individually and ther-
apeutically. Forces were at work to alienate deaf people from their differ-
ence, from their own sensibility.

Evolutionism, Eugenics, and Deaf People


Dr. E. A. Fay has made a study of the records gathered by the Volta Bureau.
He finds that there have been 4,471 marriages between deaf persons. 14.1%
of these deaf matings report no children. There are 6,782 children reported
from parents, both of whom are deaf, 24.7% of children from these deaf
parents are themselves deaf. Are not such marriages criminal and should
not the State interfere? (Stokes 1917, 63)

An ardent eugenicist reached these conclusions from Fays work. Fays


own position, however, was more restrained.

For those who have deaf relatives, the question of advice is delicate and dif-
ficult; and I do not think it necessary to offer any. I have told you of the lia-
bility of such persons to have deaf offspring. I leave it to yourself to judge
152 a sociological history of discrimination

whether it is right and proper for you to marry. President Gallaudet has said
that he would rank high in his esteem a deaf person who remained unmar-
ried, because there was a danger of deaf offspring; that he would honor him
for his unselfishness. I think all persons of good judgment and a high sense
of honor would agree with him. But one piece of advice I do not hesitate
to give you all; under no circumstances whatever marry a person who is re-
lated to you in any degree of consanguinity. (Fay 1898, 78)

Fays words concluded a lecture delivered to students at Gallaudet Col-


lege, Washington D.C., on February 23, 1900. They echoed a talk given
three years earlier at Gallaudet by Alexander Graham Bell, a talk inter-
preted into sign language by Fay.2 Bell, too, counseled against marriage
between deaf people and, particularly, between people related through
consanguinity. The basis for their counsel was clear: deafness was a
pathology that threatened the normal majority.
Interest in the effect of deaf marriages on the incidence of deafness
was by no means new. In 1857, Buxton had published an article On
the Marriage and Intermarriage of the Deaf and Dumb (Buxton 1857).
Buxtons conclusions were based on all available relevant statistics for
Britain, Ireland, and America:

Enough has probably now been saidand for the opinions advanced ample
evidence has, I think, been adducedto establish the proposition which I
undertook to maintain, namely, that there is no sufficient reason for pro-
hibiting the marriages of deaf persons with the hearing; but that it is, at the
same time highly inexpedient that the deaf and dumb should marry with
each other. (Buxton 1857, 16)

Like many theories to follow, including those of Bell, Fay, and Gallaudet,
the conclusions were flawed statistically and genetically, but they rein-
forced, with apparent scientific support, a conviction that deaf people
should not develop any sense of community based in shared deafness but
that they should interact with the hearing world as individuals. In the
1870s, Elliott introduced coeducational classes at the Old Kent Road
school in London but stressed the need to keep the girls and boys sepa-
rate in the playground lest they form personal attachments that might
lead to relationships, which might result in deaf offspring.
Bell went so far as to express fears that segregating the education
of deaf people in residential schools coupled with using sign language
rather than the speech of the wider (normal) society would lead to a dis-
Eugenics and Pure Oralism 153

tinct deaf variety of the human race (Bell 1884b). Bell attracted close
media attention wherever he went, and although his statements were
often quoted out of context, his anxieties about consanguineous mar-
riages, his fervent belief that deaf people should be integrated as individ-
uals into the wider society, and his conviction that they should not form
any sort of community served both the oralist cause and that of more ex-
treme eugenicists. As a highly respected scientist who had been respon-
sible for some of the most dramatic technological developments of his
time, Bells statements were also accorded a legitimacy that had little to
do with the validity of his assumptions about heredity. Both his statistics
and his genetic theory were, in fact, faulty.
Quite clearly, the concept of a deaf community posed a distinct threat
to the Western establishment just as the concept of the idiot family
posed a threat. The concept of community was itself a threat to the indi-
vidualism that dominated Western middle-class ideology. Just as black
power and womens movements later threatened the white, male estab-
lishment by asserting and practicing communal unitycommunal unity
that transformed these peoples individuated isolation in separate house-
holds and gave them a strength that the individuated white male did not
possessthe implicit and occasionally explicit assertion of deaf commu-
nal identity threatened the normal, individuated hearing world.
In chapter 1, we traced the horrors of sterilization and extermination
programs in Germany as the Nazi government sought to eliminate the
hereditary forms of disability from the population altogether. As we
stressed in that chapter, the actions of the Nazi regime were only one step
removed from those of eugenicists throughout the Western world in the
interwar period. Biesolds devastating study has now shown (Biesold
1999) that deaf people in Germany during the 1930s were encompassed
by laws that progressed from forcing them to be sterilized and prohibit-
ing them from marrying to so-called euthanasia laws, which allowed,
first, deaf children and then also deaf adults to be killed.
The prime foci for locating the hereditary deaf were the schools for
the deaf and the adult deaf associations. The German governments main
agents in the identification of the hereditary deaf population were teach-
ers of the deaf (see Biesold 1999). Thousands of deaf people were mur-
dered. In the postwar period, although Jews were recognized as having
been persecuted by the Nazi regime, those whose medical diagnoses con-
firmed that they suffered from an hereditary disability were seen by
the postwar courts as having been dealt with through proper procedures,
154 a sociological history of discrimination

as not having suffered persecution at the hands of the Nazis. When sup-
ported by medical diagnoses, the eugenicist policies remained legitimate
in the eyes of the postwar, anti-Nazi regimes (see Friedlander 1999).
Nazi eugenics pushed the logic for the elimination of genetically deaf
people to the most horrific scenario of all: sterilization and, eventually,
murder in hospitals and gas chambers. But throughout the Western
world at the end of the nineteenth century, in education and in the wider
community, the orientation moved away from benevolent tolerance and
acceptance toward the elimination of deaf peoples identity by means of
linguistic genocide, therapy, and technology. By removing teachers who
were deaf and teachers who could sign from the classroom and even the
playground, the educational process would seek to destroy those aspects
of deaf peoples identity associated with their recognition as an accept-
able albeit devalued part of natures diversity.

The Use, Abuse, and Prohibition of Natural


Sign Language in Deaf Education
In all histories of deaf education, 1880 is seen as the year in which the
decisive triumph of oralism occurred by means of the International Con-
gress of Teachers of the Deaf in Milan. At the Milan Congress, the Italian
oralist, the abb Tarra, proposed resolutions calling for the worldwide
adoption of pure oralism and the rejection of sign languages in schools
for the deaf, resolutions that were passed by large majorities, including
the majority of the British delegation. The effect of the Milan Congress
is overstated. Signing continued to be used in schools for some time, not
only in America but also in Britain and Australia. What Milan did mark
very clearly was a change in the overall conceptualization of the educa-
tional process as it applied to deaf people. The purpose of that education
was changing. The disablement of people who were deaf had, as outlined
at the end of the last chapter, reached a new phase.
The change was, as always, a subtle one because the agents who were
involved in the disabling processesteachers, parents, doctors and ther-
apists, clerics, welfare workers, and administratorsremained, on the
whole, oriented toward the welfare of deaf people. But their social and
cultural environment was generating dispositions that promoted a new
type of discriminatory behavior. Darwinism, eugenics, and advances in
medicine and technology focused the benevolence of teachers, parents,
and others associated with deaf people on the individual deaf person
Eugenics and Pure Oralism 155

rather than on the deaf as a section of society. They sought to develop


pedagogical and therapeutic processes that would transform the individ-
ual to fit the wider normal, civilized society. By removing signing
and deaf teachers from the classroom and even the playground, they
sought to normalize the deaf individual. They sought to destroy deaf
peoples difference, to destroy the cultural aspects of their deafness. In
the process, they would destroy those aspects of deaf peoples identity as-
sociated with the recognition that deaf people were an acceptable albeit
devalued part of natures diversity. The symbolic violence of this linguis-
tic imperialism was particularly destructive.

The Use and Abuse of Natural Sign Language


in Britain, France, and America
The move to mass education of deaf people had been associated with a
move to the use of sign language as a medium of education. As David
Buxton wrote in an outline of the history of deaf education in 1876,

[W]hen it became common to congregate considerable numbers of children


in the public Institutions, their inmates resorted naturally to the language
which was natural to them. It is indeed as natural for the deaf to sign, as
for ducks to swim. We know that ducks have wings and can fly; so the deaf
have tongues and can speak; but the readiness and grace with which they
sign, in contrast with the speech of the born deaf, can only be paralleled by
the contrast between the graceful floating and the awkward flying of the
ordinary water fowl. (1876, 9899)

Mirzoeff writes It was no coincidence that in turning from educating


deaf aristocrats, who had often been taught orally, to the deaf poor,
lEpe used sign language as proper to the natural mass of the poor
(Mirzoeff 1995, 34). Why was it no coincidence? Essentially because,
although the wealthy were equated with culture, the poor were equated
with nature and the deaf poor, particularly so.3 Natural sign language
was evaluated by most educators as a natural, universal language, a
savage language that could not meet the demands of an education
based on the cultured, civilized Western world. It was, therefore, not a
viable medium of education and was, at best, a bridge to the acquisition
of the languages of culturewritten, spoken, and even signed. LEpes
methodological signs embodied the transformation of natural language
into a language of culture and reason.
156 a sociological history of discrimination

What part did sign language play in Watsons educational system? The
simple answer is that he used sign language and the manual alphabet
constantly in both theory and practice. Like his predecessors, Wallis and
the Braidwoods, Watson advocated the careful learning and use of natu-
ral sign language:

[E]veryone, who would undertake the arduous task of successfully teaching


the deaf and dumb, should closely turn his attention to the study of that lan-
guage termed natural, where it consists of gesture and feature, in order to
enable him to comprehend, as far as possible, the signs of his scholars. . . .
Of how much importance it is to a teacher of the deaf and dumb to un-
derstand their signs, will be readily apprehended, if any one will attempt,
either to teach or to learn a language, without having another, common to
master and scholar. (Watson 1809, 8182; Watsons italics)

Signing was an essential part of the British system, which was by no


means oral. Watson was also perfectly aware of the fact that, within a
community of deaf people, sign language was made up of not only natu-
ral gestures but also arbitrary signs, as are all true languages (Watson
1809, 78).
But Watson, like lEpe and Sicard (Bazot 1819), did not see natural
sign language as a language equivalent to English or as an equivalent to
other literate languages such as French, German, or Latin. Sign language
was seen as equivalent to the rude and imperfect language, the bar-
barous speech of a south-Sea Islander (8384), an overtly imperialist
interpretation to be echoed later in the century by De Grando in France.
Watson saw sign language as a means to an end, the means by which a
teacher could teach the literate languages of the West that he described as
regular, copious, and polished (83). Linguistic imperialism was a driv-
ing force in the education of deaf people in France, Britain, and later in
America, but it took varying forms.
The British system, the system that came in a direct line from Wallis to
Baker and Thomas Braidwood, on to John Braidwood and Joseph Wat-
son, and then on to Robert Kinniburgh and Charles Baker and those they
trained, differed from the system in France. The difference was by no
means a matter of oralism versus manualism. British deaf education for
most of the nineteenth century was, as we have stressed, not oralist. It
differed from Frances and later from Americas approaches in the way it
made use of sign language. As we look briefly at the different forms of
linguistic imperialism, we note an important point: Watson and a stream
Eugenics and Pure Oralism 157

of later educators such as Charles Baker were well acquainted with edu-
cational writing and activities in France and the rest of Europe. Watson
read French and Latin fluently and read widely. Sicard respected and ad-
mired Watsons work, an admiration that was mutual.
Watson explicitly opposed the artificial language of methodized
signs (Bazot 1819, 84) that had been devised by lEpe, and he saw no
point in substituting sign language, methodized or natural, for English
as the language of learning. This issue was where he differed from
Sicard. The essential difference was not the acceptance or rejection of
articulation as an aspect of education but the role of sign language.
Both Watson and Sicard taught articulation and proudly displayed their
successful pupils, indeed, displaying them together in June 1815 (see
Brown 1994, 11). But although Sicard continued to teach articulation,
he accepted sign language or, rather, the system of methodological signs
as an effective intellectual medium and did not see the learning of
speech as a necessary element of deaf education.4 Watson, in the British
tradition, saw sign language as a natural language, essential as an edu-
cational medium but, primarily, as the mode through which access to
English, the perfect medium of education as far as the British were con-
cerned, was obtained. Education in the British tradition should then
proceed through written English, relying heavily on the use of the man-
ual alphabet to represent the written word manually (see Watson 1809,
12122).
The British approach was about to expand and diversify as schools
were established throughout Britain and Ireland. A basic consistency of
approaches to teaching remained, however, because many of the teachers
were trained by the Braidwoods or by Watson. Despite the fact that some
schools rejected articulation while others focused increasingly on articu-
lation, the British approach to signing was fairly consistent. No attempts
were made to formalize natural signing into a language that complied
with hearing peoples notions of grammatical language as the French
were doing. As mentioned above, the use of fingerspelling was very
heavy, and signs were often equated with words. The British opposition
to systems of methodological signs, in fact, resulted in British Sign Lan-
guage remaining far more natural than was the case in France and the
United States where sign languages were artificially developed gram-
matically and through the addition of new vocabulary. In 1867, Gal-
laudet noted the much greater use of books and printed materials in
Britain than in America (Gallaudet 1867, 12). And virtually all those
158 a sociological history of discrimination

schools in Gallaudets survey using what he called the natural method,


based on a free use of the natural language of the deaf mute and of pan-
tomimic gestures, were British or Irish (1011).
Some of the early British teachers of the deaf, in fact, saw their system
as very similar to the version of the French system favored by Bbian,
Sicards successor in Paris (Kinniburgh 1847).5 Bbian, fluent in the sign
language of deaf people, was completely opposed to lEpes method-
ological signs (Bbian 1817). He saw natural sign language as a complex,
rich, and effective vehicle for education (Bbian 1817, 1825, 1827). This
link with Bbian is clearly outlined by W. R. Scott in his book The Deaf
and Dumb: Their Education and Social Position (Scott 1870), which
provides the most complete view of the use of sign language in the edu-
cation of deaf people in Britain during the nineteenth century. Scott was
trained by Charles Baker at the Doncaster Institution and became princi-
pal of the West England Institution for the Education of the Deaf and
Dumb at Exeter from 1841 until his death in 1877. He was described as
an excellent and graphic signer (The British Deaf Monthly 1897, 179).
Scott favored the extensive use of the manual alphabet in teaching. He
recognized sign language as a language of arbitrary signs with a distinct
grammar and a vocabulary that could not be equated with the words
of speech and writing. Scott has been virtually ignored by historians and
linguists of sign languages but, in fact, provided what appears to be the
earliest comprehensive linguistic analysis of British Sign Language. He
was highly critical of the use of methodological signs, namely, the devel-
opment of a sign for a word:

We have heard of teachers who would sign through a lesson, giving sign for
word in regular succession, in the belief that each sign they made was of
equal importance and would necessarily give the idea. We could hardly sup-
pose that there could have been teachers with such madness in their
methods. (Scott 1870, 13031)6

Like Watson, Scott stated clearly that there was no need to teach sign
language to deaf people; it was their language. Therefore, he made no
attempt to develop sign language proficiency among the pupils. They did
not study sign language in the same way as their hearing peers studied
English. Sign language was a given, a language of communication but
not of learning. The teacher made use of it to teach the curriculum, to
promote literacy in English. The pupils, too, valued the British system
and fought hard at times to retain it, as is evidenced by the rebellion of
Eugenics and Pure Oralism 159

students at the Birmingham school at Edgbaston in 1826 when the new


Swiss principal, Louis Du Puget, attempted to change the system intro-
duced by Thomas Braidwood (Lee 1998, 7). It took the arrival of
Charles Baker in the same year to restore order (Baker 1875).
In France, the use of methodological signs gave way to increasing
oralism much earlier than in Britain, especially through the influence of
Itard and De Grando. Moves by Berthier and Bbian to establish the use
of natural sign language as a viable medium of instruction were soon laid
to rest, and the firm dominance of the cultured language of French, in
written and oral forms, continued to triumph over the natural sign lan-
guage. In the tradition established by lEpe, the opposition of nature to
culture continued to devalue natural sign language and to deny it the sta-
tus of an educational medium. For lEpe, natural language needed to be
thoroughly transformed through the development of signed French, his
system of methodological signs. For De Grando, natural sign language
had to pave the way for the direct acquisition of written and spoken
French. Through both lEpes and De Grandos approaches, deaf peo-
ple were themselves devalued.
In America, the system of methodological signs was introduced by
Laurent Clerc through the establishment of the school at Hartford, Con-
necticut.7 His predecessors in the education of deaf people in America,
John Braidwood and the Reverend John Kirkpatrick, used natural sign
language as a path to the acquisition of what they regarded as the lan-
guage of educationwritten and spoken English. Although natural sign
language was praised in the Hartford school as a medium of communi-
cation, it was viewed as a (natural) basis on which more specialized (cul-
tured) educational mediasigned English and written Englishcould be
established and used (see Van Cleve and Crouch 1989). The opposition
of nature and culture remained, stressing the vital role of introduced lan-
guages in the education of deaf people.
Although educators in America, as in France, supported the use of
signing as a mode of instruction in the first half of the nineteenth cen-
tury, the signing used for instruction in literacy was not natural sign lan-
guage but, rather, a mixture of natural signs, methodological signs, ini-
tialized signs, and fingerspelling. Isaac Lewis Peet, who succeeded his
father Harvey Peet as principal of the New York Institution, wrote in
1868 that the colloquial language of signs . . . is deficient in general
terms (Peet 1869, 99) and stated with respect to the development of
initialized signs that
160 a sociological history of discrimination

[t]he writer thinks that whatever the merits or demerits of this system may
be, it is allowable to him to claim, in a modified sense, the authorship of
most of the signs he has indicated, as well as of many others of the like com-
position. For some years, as teacher of intelligent classes of deaf-mutes, he
has laboured to extend and improve the language of signs and has been en-
thusiastically aided by his pupils. (Peet 1869, 1012)

Natural sign language was not seen as a viable medium for education.
We find, therefore, far closer links among the British systems and
those used in France and America than is often admitted by those histo-
rians who tend to see the history of deaf education as a simplistic divi-
sion between manualists and oralists. Those histories ignore the nature
of those manualisms and the degree to which they involved the exer-
cise of symbolic power by hearing educators over the natural signing of
their deaf pupils. We can achieve a far more revealing understanding of
the complex history surrounding the use of signing in deaf education by
considering attitudes toward the use of natural sign languages than we
can by turning to a category like manualism. After all, natural sign
language was seen to be the defining aspect of deaf humanity.
Linguistic imperialism was as vital a factor in the disabling of deaf
people in France and America as it was in Britain. In all three situations,
the natural language of deaf people, so integral to their identity and sense
of self-respect, was thoroughly devalued. While natural sign language
was defined as inadequate to the task of education, deaf people them-
selves were being defined as incapable in their natural state of achiev-
ing cultural development. Deaf people were being devalued as uncul-
tured, natural, even primitive, and thus in need of intervention by
the cultured hearing world. In Britain, natural sign language supple-
mented by copious fingerspelling in English was seen as an avenue to ef-
fective education. In France, the natural language of the pupils was thor-
oughly transformed and, in fact, disabled to represent written French.
In America, Frances methodological signs and the one-handed alphabet
were adapted to the grammatical and pedagogical demands of the domi-
nant language of English, replacing the American forms of natural sign
languages and the two-handed alphabet that had been used by the deaf
students of Paris. Even Clercs legitimacy lay in his education by Sicard
and Massieu in the use of methodological signs. Not his deafness but his
cultured acquisition of hearing languagesmethodological signs, French,
and Englishis what defined his pedagogical authority.
Eugenics and Pure Oralism 161

The devaluation of deaf peoples natural sign language signaled and


promoted the cultural construction of deaf people as other. Their
newly constructed otherness was akin to that of other natural, un-
civilized peoples. Deaf people themselves were in turn devalued, but
they were allowed to possess a deaf identity. Through the first three-
quarters of the nineteenth century in all three countries discussed above,
manual communication in various guises was used in most schools. All
these schools acknowledged the need for communication systems that
were deaf rather than hearing.
The complexity of the linguistic environment within deaf schools in
Britain during the nineteenth century is well illustrated in various survey
results that document the methods used in British schools for the deaf.8
In one of the most comprehensive surveys, which was published in 1881,
Edward Fay wrote the following:

By the manual method is meant the course of instruction which employs


the sign language, the manual alphabet, and writing as the chief means in
the education of the deaf, and has facility in the comprehension and use of
written language as its principal object. . . .
By the oral method is meant that in which signs are used as little as
possible; the manual alphabet is discarded altogether, and articulation and
lip-reading, together with writing, are made the chief means as well as the
end of instruction. . . .
The combined method is not so easy to define, as the term is employed
indiscriminately with reference to several distinct methods, such as (1) the
free use of both signs and articulation, with the same pupils and the same
teachers throughout their course of instruction; (2) the general instruction of
all pupils is by means of the manual method, with the special training of a part
of them in articulation and lip-reading as an accomplishment; (3) the instruc-
tion of some pupils by the manual method and others by the oral method in
the same institution; (4)though this is rather a combined systemthe em-
ployment of the manual method and the oral method in separate schools
under the same general management, pupils being sent to one establishment
or the other as seems best with regard to each individual case. (Fay 1881)

The results of Fays survey are particularly interesting because they reveal
an overwhelming preference for the manual method, with articulation
simply seen as an accomplishment available to those with an aptitude
for speech. Pure oralism, Fays oralism category, is confined to private
162 a sociological history of discrimination

schools and those controlled by the Association for Oral Instruction. As


we shall see, the teachers and benefactors from these private schools
plus Stainer from the London School Board and Elliott from Margate
represented Britain at the Congress of Teachers of the Deaf in Milan in
1880. The pure oralists were, as documented below, aggressive and evan-
gelical in the promotion of their method and had significant financial
support from private benefactors such as the Baroness Mayer de Roth-
schild and B. St. John Ackers, barrister and member of parliament. But
the bulk of the teachers of deaf students were comfortable with the
British manual tradition.9
Using the results of Fays survey, if we look at, as one category, the
number of schools teaching solely or primarily by the manual method,
where, if articulation is taught at all, it is taught as an additional skill
to those with the necessary aptitude, and, as another category, the num-
ber of schools teaching by means of pure oralism and the combination of
oralism and manualism, then 66 percent of British schools for the deaf
were manual, 14 percent were combined, and 21 percent were pure oral
schools. This analysis is based on the number of schools, not the num-
ber of pupils. Were the number of pupils to be taken into account, the
manual slice would be much more dominant. Apart from the London
School Board schools where Stainer was a very recent and reluctant con-
vert to oralism, the oral schools were all small private schools catering,
not to the needs of poor people, but to the demands of wealthy, cul-
tured parents.10

The Emergence of Pure Oralism in Britain


Although we are concerned above all with revealing and interpreting
the social and cultural consequences of philosophical and pedagogical
ideas as well as their realization in practice, we must return to the realm
of pedagogical theory and practice to understand the way that pure oral-
ism emerged and eventually triumphed on the British scene. The appeals
for legitimacy that were made by pure oralisms advocates and practi-
tioners to a mixture of religious, humanitarian, and scientific ideolo-
gies and the appeals to science that were so necessary and powerful in
late nineteenth century Britain demanded the presence of intellectual
leaders. For some time, Joseph Watson remained the lone theorist and
comprehensive writer on the education of deaf students in Britain, but
three other great theorists emerged through the century: Charles Baker
Eugenics and Pure Oralism 163

(18031874); W. R. Scott (18111877), trained by Charles Baker; and


finally, Thomas Arnold (18161897), who also initially worked under
Baker at Doncaster.
Baker (1837, 1842) laid great stress on writing and on the use of the
manual alphabet.11 Although he was a competent signer, he did not favor
the use of natural sign language as the main medium of instruction
throughout all the years of schooling. Baker was an intellectual whose
pedagogical writings extended well beyond the education of deaf chil-
dren. In 1831, he wrote:

Although the deaf and dumb have been gathered together in various institu-
tions for forty years, no attempt has yet been made to supply such a course
of practical lessons as they required, both as school exercises and as aids to
the acquisition of language when not under the instruction of their teacher.
(quoted Thomas Baker 1875, 206)

Bakers Education of the Senses (Baker 1837) was his first step to supply
this course of practical lessons. It was followed by a number of articles
for the Penny Encyclopdia and for the Journal of Education. His book
The Circle of Knowledge, a graded reading book for children of all ages,
was used throughout the world, was adopted by the British and French
royal families for the education of their children, and was translated into
French and Chinese. For Baker, the education of deaf children was sim-
ply an expression of wider educational processes; language was at the
center of all education. He was critical of lEpes system of signs, claim-
ing that sign language is a natural language that is limited in scope and
that to attempt to develop an artificial language is doomed to failure. He
claimed that a developed language could never be a true language con-
veying ideas but that it simply conveyed another language that must, in
turn, be understood. He said of fingerspelling, or dactylology,

Dactylology is nothing more than a substitute for our artificial alphabet; it


conveys no ideas but is merely a vehicle of language,a convenient one, be-
cause ready at all times, and in situations and circumstances when writing
materials are inaccessible. (Baker 1837, 94)

His former assistant teacher, W. R. Scott, was, as we have indicated,


more sympathetic to the use of sign language, stressing its educational
importance and taking time to study it thoroughly (Scott [1849] 1870).
But the pedagogical influence of Baker and Scott was limited by chang-
ing times. Baker died in 1874 and Scott in 1877, just as pure oralism
164 a sociological history of discrimination

Charles Baker, teacher and educational


theorist, criticized lEpes system of
signs, believing that sign languages were
limited in scope and couldnt convey
complex ideas.

came up over the pedagogical horizon, an expression of the individuat-


ing, alienating social processes discussed above. Thomas Arnold, minis-
ter of the Doddridge Chapel in Northampton, was, in collaboration with
his star deaf pupil Abraham Farrar, to become Britains intellectual cham-
pion of pure oralism. Through the integration of their biographies and
our knowledge of the history and society of their times, we turn to ex-
plore the complex triumph of pure oralism and its dramatic conse-
quences in the disablement of deaf people.

The Exception and the Rule: Thomas Arnold,


Abraham Farrar, and the Ideological Triumph
of Pure Oralism in Britain
Arnold taught only private pupils and then very few, but his manual
for teaching deaf people speech and lipreading as well as for educating
deaf people in general became the central texts in Britain for pure oralists
and, above all, for the professional training of pure oralist teachers
(Arnold 1881, 1888, 1891).12 Arnold, however, did not believe that deaf
children should be prevented from using sign language among them-
selves. His central concern was that speech should become the medium
of instruction as early as possible and that students learn to think in En-
glish words. His learning and his influential contacts were vital to the dis-
proportionate publicity given to the oralists and to the generation of sup-
port for the oralist cause from wealthy benefactors, parliamentarians,
and even royalty. In fact, Arnold, through his most famous pupil, Abra-
ham Farrar, was to be a catalyst in the development of oralism in Britain.
Eugenics and Pure Oralism 165

Thomas Arnold developed a manual for


instructing deaf people how to speak
and lipread that became one of the
core texts for oralists.

Farrars story is important because it demonstrates the intense power of


the ideology of individualism and the vital link between oralism and the
individuation of deaf people.13
Farrar was the only son of an extremely wealthy Yorkshire landowner.
When Farrar was three years old, he caught scarlet fever and lost his
hearing completely. Choosing not to send him to any of the public insti-
tutions, Farrars father sought the services of the Reverend Thomas
Arnold who had had experience with the teaching of deaf students ear-
lier in his career. On 23 January 1868, his seventh birthday, Farrar began
his education with Arnold.
For the next six years, Farrar was the only child in the household. In
addition to speech and lipreading, he was also given a good classical ed-
ucation. Farrar had Arnolds undivided attention in class, and he was
ideal raw material, being extremely intelligent with a thirst for knowl-
edge and having had no contact with sign language. Farrar, therefore,
was, in every sense, the pure oral student. For Arnold, Farrar was the
perfect test case of his method.
. . . I was greatly favoured in having the son of Mr. and Mrs. Farrar as my
pupil. From the first day until the last of his education they confided in my
sincerity and ability, patiently waited till the work was achieved that made
him the first of deaf students in the Empire, rejoiced with me in my success,
sympathised with me in struggling with difficulties, and gave not a few
proofs of their liberality. The crucial test I had devised had all the time, lib-
erty, and encouragement it required to make it perfect. . . .
. . . I was happy to have him as my crucial test. He ended the contention.
(Arnold 1895, 69)
166 a sociological history of discrimination

Farrars success, in fact, proved little because it bore virtually no rela-


tionship to the environment of the school classroom. James Howard,
who succeeded Charles Baker as head of the Yorkshire Institution for the
Deaf and Dumb in Doncaster and who introduced the oralist system in
the Doncaster school under the influence of the Italian oralist the abb
Ballestra, emphasized this point when he wrote in response to an article
by Farrar (1883),

Mr. Farrar doubtless enjoyed exceptional privileges, inasmuch as expense


was no object in his education. He was taught at reputedly the best private
school for the deaf in the kingdom, and was permitted to remain under in-
struction several years;
. . . the very system advocated by Mr Farrar has been in operation in the
Yorkshire County Institution at Doncaster for the last eight years. . . .
. . . We labour, however, here under great disadvantages. Our pupils are for
the greater part children of poor parents, who only allow them to remain at
school an average of four years; and for lack of funds our teaching staff
is not so numerous as it should be, the classes consisting of from 12 to
20 pupils, instead of the maximum number under one teacher being limited
to tena sine qua non to success under the Oral system. . . . (Howard
1883)

Howard still had great hopes for the success of the oral system in
schools, hopes that were rarely fulfilled over the next hundred years.
However, Arnolds crucial test did produce what leaders needed above
all else in their campaign to establish a national, pure-oralist educational
systema live success to be paraded before the wealthy and the power-
ful in their pursuit of this oral educational system for deaf students.
On 12 September 1874, Arnold took Farrar with him to one of his
lectures for the first time. Farrar then demonstrated his ability to copy
sounds made by Arnold and answered a series of simple questions. Far-
rar concluded his demonstration by reading from the first chapter of the
Gospel of St. John in Latin and then repeating verses from a poem. The
newspaper reported that he articulated with considerable accuracy but
that a want of flexibility was noticeable in his voice (Howard 1883).
The following year at a public lecture, Farrar made his usual presenta-
tion of following a dictation by Arnold and won the admiration of the
audience:

With astonishing readiness and accuracy, and by an evident exercise of his


reasoning faculties, not from memory, demonstrated a proposition from the
Eugenics and Pure Oralism 167

second book of Euclid: gave the extraction of the square root from a num-
ber and the exposition of that extraction with algebraic proof. The pupil, in
English analysis and Latin translation, as well as in mathematics, showed
himself equal in intelligence and acquirements to most boys of his age if not
superior. . . .14

One effect of this demonstration was to gain the support of the local
member of Parliament, a Mr. Phipps, to lobby the government to pro-
vide, in practice and not just in theory, education for all deaf children.
The Elementary Education Act of 1870 had made education compulsory
for all, including deaf children, but the means was not provided, and the
educational needs of thousands of children who were poor and deaf re-
mained neglected. Farrars success provided added support to extend the
School Board classes for deaf students that had begun in September 1874
under William Stainer. The example of Farrar and the evangelical fervor
of Arnold for the oral method were soon to result in the School Board
classes following the oral method.
In 1876, Farrar entered and passed the local examination of Cam-
bridge University just prior to his sixteenth birthday. Farrars success
brought Arnold a great deal of publicity. He was personally congratu-
lated by both King Edward and the Prince of Wales. Farrars success was
reported in many of the papers of the day, including the Leeds Mercury
in his hometown of Leeds.
In 1877, Arnold engaged a local science master and an Oxford scholar
to prepare Farrar for the London University matriculation examinations.
In 1880, Farrar was awarded the Queens Prize in chemistry and geology
at the South Kensington Science and Art Examinations. In 1881, he ma-
triculated from London University after sitting for exams that included
Latin, Greek, French, geometry, algebra, natural philosophy, chemistry,
English language, history, and grammar with dictation. Again, Farrars
success was reported widely in newspapers throughout the country.15 By
now, Farrar had become the living proof of the pure oral method and
was called on to give public exhibitions. His effect on popular attitudes
and on those with power and wealth was enormous.
Farrars effect was enhanced by his also being the embodiment of the
cultured gentlemanlanded, cultured, classically educateda stark con-
trast to the pupils of the crowded public schools for the deaf. Oralism,
thus, was seen to be the agent of culture whereas signing remained asso-
ciated with the uncultured, natural world. Deaf from natural causes,
Farrar was presented as having become a virtual hearing person through
168 a sociological history of discrimination

the agency of a pure oralist education. In his 1899 article, The Limita-
tions of the Pure Oral Method, Ernest Abraham wrote:

Mr. Farrar had every advantage that the average victim of Pure Oralism has
not. He had intelligence, means, individual instruction for a practically un-
limited period, and a prince of teachers; yet he admits that he cannot take in
an average sermon or lecture by lip-reading, and that his speech is adequate
only to the ordinary transactions of life. . . .
Mr. Farrar is the brilliant exception that proves the rule that the Pure
Oral method is quite unsuitable for general application. (Abraham 1899,
261)

But the hegemony of individualism triumphed. The exception set the


course for the education of generations of deaf students. To understand
further the historical process of disablement, we turn back to the Milan
Congress of 1880.

The International Congress of


Teachers of the Deaf, Milan 1880
The passing of the abb Tarras resolution for the universal adoption of
pure oralism in the education of the deaf was reported enthusiastically
in the London Times.16 The Times report, strongly influenced by some
prominent oralist delegates from Britain, claimed virtual universal sup-
port among teachers of the deaf for pure oralismThe result is a virtual
unanimity of preference for oral teaching which might seem to overbear
all possibility of oppositionand marveled at the performances during
the Congress by Italian oral students.17 After nearly a century of educat-
ing poor and deaf students through sign language, the popular imagina-
tion was again being stirred by the idea of teaching deaf mutes to speak.
But subtle changes from the reactions of earlier centuries were apparent.
The focus was less on education and more on the physical production of
speech, on the vocal utterance, as a passport to the hearing world. The
oralists were concerned with emancipating deaf people from their deaf-
ness and, thus, from their pathological condition as well with providing
deaf individuals the means to deny their deaf identity through therapeu-
tic education. Education was becoming a cure for lack of speech. For
the first time, the education of deaf students in England had a different
goal from the education of hearing students. Speech and not knowledge
was beginning to dominate the deaf childs education.
Eugenics and Pure Oralism 169

This description is not intended to paint all pure oralists with the same
brush. Some, like Arnold, focused on what they assumed to be the edu-
cational value of pure oralism. Arnold saw the mastering of speech as the
avenue to the mastery of those ideas expressed in the spoken language, in
his case, English. But his public demonstrations focused heavily on the
ability to speak, and the ability of deaf people to speak was what sparked
the public imagination. The demonstration of even a mild reflection of
oral competence was seen as a grand scientific achievement.
So fervent a crusade had oralism become that many pure oralists
ignored the criticisms of other scientific experts. The very people who
were to lay the basis for wholesale IQ testing with its disastrous re-
sults, the French psychologists Binet and Simon, were completely ignored
when they concluded the following after a scientific evaluation of the
achievements of Paris graduates from oralist institutions:

People are mistaken about the practical result of the oral method. It seems
to us a sort of luxury education, which boosts morale rather than yielding
useful and tangible results. It does not enable deaf-mutes to get jobs; it does
not permit them to exchange ideas with strangers; it does not allow them
even a consecutive conversation with intimates; and deaf-mutes who have
not learned to speak earn their living just as easily as those who have ac-
quired this semblance of speech. (quoted in Lane 1988, 400)

Fired up by Arnolds eloquence and Farrars example, by results that


gelled with their goals for deaf individuals, the oralists ignored informa-
tion, scientific or otherwise, that did not support their views. In their
eyes, oralism meant progress, civilization in opposition to savagery, Ger-
man rationality in opposition to French romanticism.
The pure oralists were fervent, self-righteous, politically effective, and
well-connected. They pursued their cause with a missionary zeal, none
more so than the oralists chief spokesperson, Susanna Hull. Susanna
Hull was one of Britains earliest and most fervent pure oralists. In her
school in 1868, Alexander Graham Bell had first applied his fathers
methods of visible speech, and she remained a dedicated follower of
Bells methods. Her evolutionist views on the use of sign language were
clearly stated.18 In 1881, she wrote to the American Annals of the Deaf
in response to Edward Miner Gallaudets report of the Milan Congress,
a report that had claimed the vote in favor of oralism was entirely un-
representative of teachers of deaf students throughout the world, espe-
cially in Britain. Her response was full of evangelical fervor, not for the
170 a sociological history of discrimination

religious salvation of deaf people, though religious fervor was also there,
but for the salvation of deaf people from deafness and dumbness, for
their emancipation from the slavery to silence that she saw manualism
as imposing on them:

What did America do when the sons of another soil were enslaved upon her
shores, debarred from the privileges her citizens enjoyed? Did not the North
confront the South, the hands of brothers become dyed with brothers
blood, rather than that such a crime should continue? And shall this same
America sit down and say of her own children, Our deaf shall remain
dumb, because our hearts are too selfish, our tongues too idle to plead for
those whom our education has deprived of the power of vocal utterance?
Ten thousand times, No! The time for deliverance has come. Other nations
have risen; who shall forbid America to be amongst the foremost? Surely
not Dr. Gallaudet.
By the memory of his sainted mother, his honoured father, we call
upon him to revise his verdict, to lend his power, his influence, his knowl-
edge, his great ability, to forward that which he acknowledges as superior,
and Americas deaf shall yet rise up and bless him with their so long-with-
held God-given voices. (Hull 1881, 9798; Hulls italics)

Thus, by means of oralist education, taught as we shall see by an in-


creasingly professionalized body of hearing teachers, deafness and a deaf
identity were being defined as pathological conditions to be denied and
overcome. Deafness was a symptom to be treated, ameliorated, and de-
nied, though never quite cured.
Although throughout most of the nineteenth century the vast major-
ity of teachers of deaf students, whether deaf or hearing, had been male,
the triumph of pure oralism would involve a radical feminization of the
role of teacher of deaf students. This feminization occurred when the
teaching of deaf students was redefined as a caring profession akin to
nursing, a profession that, given the medical focus on therapy, required
mothering and nursing rather than intellectual stimulation. This new
definition of the profession linked deaf people to the ideologically de-
fined private world of women rather than to what was seen as the pub-
lic, able-bodied world of men. The feminization of teaching rein-
forced the oral method, giving added meaning to the use of the mother
method of language acquisition developed by the German oralists, es-
pecially Hill.
Eugenics and Pure Oralism 171

But the transition to pure oralism did not occur overnight. As Gal-
laudet himself made clear, of the eight English delegates to the Congress,
only six had any experience of teaching deaf students: six were ardent
articulationists, and only two [Stainer and Elliott] at all favourable to
any other methoda proportion which entirely misrepresents the pres-
ent sentiment of English teachers of the deaf (Gallaudet 1881, 3). Note
that the Americans were not the lone votes against the abb Tarras pure
oralism resolution at Milan. Richard Elliott, the principal of the Margate
school voted with Gallaudetthe . . . resolutions were adopted, the
only negative voices being those of the American delegates and one En-
glish delegate, Mr. Richard Elliott, headmaster of the old London Institu-
tion (Gallaudet 1881, 5; see also Van Cleve and Crouch 1989, 110). In
addition, an Italian teacher rose to his feet during the debate on Tarras
motions, begging delegates not to kill the sign languages and to consult
with deaf people themselves before voting.19 Apart from one American
deaf delegate, James Denison, deaf people at the Congress had not been
admitted as voting delegates.
After Gallaudets report of the Milan Congress, the English delegates
plus their interpreter at the Congress, but minus Elliott, wrote to the
American Annals of the Deaf objecting to the charges of unfairness in
the constitution and management of the Congress made by Dr. E. M.
Gallaudet in the last number of the Annals (Arnold et al. 1881,
13839). As they themselves indicated, two of their number had small
private schools; two had no teaching experience but were well known
. . . for their benevolent interest in the education of the deaf (138); two
were principal and secretary respectively of the Training College for
Teachers (in fact, the Society for Training Teachers of the Deaf and Dif-
fusion of the German System in the United Kingdom); and the remain-
ing voting delegate, William Stainer, was in charge of the schools of the
London School Board. They also stated that Mr. Elliott, who voted
with the minority in the Convention, was requested to sign the protest,
but declined to do so (138).
The English report of the Congress (Society for Training Teachers of
the Deaf and for the Diffusion of the German System 1880) was pre-
pared from notes made by Kinsey and did not mention Elliotts vote
against the pure oralist resolution. Buxton and Stainer, two giants in
the British education of deaf students, had both spent the early years
of their teaching careers at the Old Kent Road school where they used
172 a sociological history of discrimination

At the Milan Congress, Richard Elliott,


the principal of the school for the deaf in
Margate, England, voted with Edward Miner
Gallaudet, to oppose pure oralist instruction.

the manual method. However, Buxton had become an increasingly ar-


dent oralist until, by Milan, he was, as the Reverend F. W. G. Gilby put
it, an extra pure-oralist (Memoirs, 149).20 Stainer was a later and
reluctant convert. A closer examination of these two giants reveals im-
portant clues about the changes taking place.
Both Stainer and Buxton had embodied the teacher as missionary.
Both had served their apprenticeships at the Old Kent Road school. Both
were fluent signers. Both had gone on to take charge of other schools.
Both were religious men taking an active role in providing religious serv-
ices for adult deaf people. In 1870, along with Charles Baker and the
heads of the New York and Hartford schools, Buxton was one of the
group of four who were first awarded an honorary doctorate by Gal-
laudets Columbia Institute. His involvement in the teaching of articula-
tion and lipreading grew gradually. In 1876, at the Twentieth Annual
Congress of the National Association for the Promotion of Social Sci-
ence, Buxton stated:

I am not going to deny that, in some cases, oral teaching may be practiced
with very great success. I have done it myself many a time; but until the ad-
vocates of the system can train up a sufficiently numerous class of experts
to supply the whole teaching power of every institutionwhich I most ar-
dently wish they would dowe must go on with the best means attainable,
and in the best way we can. . . . (1874)

The wealthy philanthropist, barrister, and member of parliament St. John


Ackers was to provide the means to train experts, and by 1878, Buxton
Eugenics and Pure Oralism 173

was secretary of the newly founded Society for Training Teachers of the
Deaf and Diffusion of the German System in the United Kingdom, and
an ardent pure oralist. At Milan, he spoke in favor of the abb Tarras
resolutions:

When I began my work as a teacher of the deaf, every Eastern voyager


went to India round the Cape. Waghorn had not tracked the overland
route; de Lesseps had not cut through the Isthmus, and joined the West-
ern to the Eastern seas. A parallel change has taken place in the work we
are considering, so far as my own and other countries are concerned. I
began to teach on the sign system. I went round the Cape. There
was no Suez Canal then. There is now. And by that superior route I mean
to go, as I most strenuously and earnestly urge its adoption upon you. It
goes straight to its destined port. Other systems stop short of it. (Buxton
1880)

What Buxton failed to understand was that the destination had changed.
In his early years, he had focused on the saving of souls and the educa-
tion of deaf people. He was now turning to focus on the transformation
of deaf people into pseudohearing people. The readiness and grace with
which they sign (quoted in The Deaf and Dumb Herald and Public
Intelligencer 1876, 99), was now seen as little consequence in their edu-
cation.

Pure Oralism, Sign Language, and the


Rationalization of the Education of the Deaf
But pure oralists like Buxton and Stainer did not advocate banning the
use of sign language altogether, only in education. The use of sign lan-
guage was being relegated to the irrational, emotional, nonscientific
realm of religion. Oralism was being identified with rationality. When
not educating deaf pupils, when involved in religion rather than in edu-
cation, Buxton used sign language. In 1889 in London, Buxton and Ed-
ward Miner Gallaudet together interpreted a lecture by the Dean of
Westminster Abbey (Draper 1889, 33). Gilbys picture of Buxton and
Stainer in their later years is both amusing and revealing. Writing in his
unpublished autobiography of the period 18951898, and specifically
of the battles between the oralists and the exponents of the silent
method, Gilby wrote:
Though the teachers of the deaf, Reverend David Buxton, left, and the Rev-
erend William Stainer, right, were fluent signers, they both came to believe
that oralism was superior. Their conversion to oralism and its inherent
contradictions with their ready use of signing in church services, is documented
by the prominent CODA minister, the Reverend F. W. G. Gilby, bottom.
Eugenics and Pure Oralism 175

I remember that Dr. Buxton was living, an extra pure-oralist though he was
in theory, he ended up his days by acting as a missionary to the deaf, and was
acting as such in 1895 when I got there [to St. Saviours in Oxford Street Lon-
don]. A foremost champion of pure oralism, he was polite enough to come
and lunch with me and to honour me with his company. He was a master of
pure English but how are the mighty fallen, and he was now preaching to
the deaf on his fingers! Sunday after Sunday in his old age he came to be
using the method he had for a number of years been cursing up hill and down
dale. Of course the same might be said, and was said, of Dr. William Stainer.
He too preached and signed with the most evident happiness and gusto;
moreover, he was good at it, and master of it, and it provided a portion of his
means of livelihood. But he had gone with the tide reviling the silent method,
and where was the consistency in all of this? (Memoirs 149)

The consistency lay in the conceptual contrast between the transforma-


tional role of education and the natural role of religion. Education was
fast becoming a branch of medicine as it focused on the disabled. Its
treatment of its pupils increasingly hinged on the diagnosis of degrees of
deafness. Deaf students were subjected to testing to determine appropri-
ate individual treatment, boosted, in particular, by the work of scientists
such as Alexander Graham Bell as they developed technologies to test
levels of hearing or deafness. Deafness was, in fact, virtually denied as it
became divided into levels of hearing loss.
The language used by Gilby to describe the activities of the pure oral-
ists is revealing. They reviled the silent method, cursing [it] up hill
and down dale. He mentions also that the pure oralists in the person
of Mr. St. John Ackers, said the very bitterest things about the manual-
ists (Memoirs, 148). As far as the pure oralists were concerned, they
had right on their side; they had found the way and must destroy all
in their path. They saw the silent method as standing in the way of
progress, of progress through reason, through science and technology.
Their claims to rationality and efficiency through the pure oralist method
signaled an alliance between followers of oralism and members of gov-
ernment to bureaucratize deaf education. The cage of reason was an
oralist cage, but not just a pure oralist one. The opponents of pure oral-
ism were not pure manualists; they were supporters of the combined
method for whom natural sign language was also inappropriate for ed-
ucation. Natural sign language, so much part of the British scene for
three centuries, was now relegated to the realm of religion.
176 a sociological history of discrimination

Notes
1. For an excellent discussion of these evolutionist views of sign language,
see Baynton (1996, chap. 2).
2. After graduating from the University of Michigan in 1862, Edward Fay
(18431923) went to teach at the New York Institution for the Deaf where his
father had also taught. Three years later in 1866, Edward Miner Gallaudet in-
vited him to join the staff of the recently established National Deaf-Mute College
(now Gallaudet University). In 1885, he became vice president, a position he held
until his retirement in 1920. A well-educated man, he taught Latin, French, and
German, but he also knew Greek, Spanish, and Italian. In 1870, he became edi-
tor of the American Annals of the Deaf, a position he held until his retirement.
He was a frequent contributor to the journal, and each year he published exten-
sive statistics on aspects of deaf education (see Van Cleve 1987).
3. Worth noting is the parallel here with feminist discussions of the devalua-
tion of women through their association with nature. The male is to the female as
culture is to nature. For a discussion of these debates, see Moore (1988, 13 ff.).
4. See Sicard (1808a, 1808b, 1814).
5. Roch-Ambroise-Auguste Bbian (17891839) began teaching at the Paris
Institute under Sicard in 1808. He criticized the use of methodological signs in
1817 in his Essai sur les Sourds-Muets et sur le langage naturel, advocating the
use of natural sign language (Bbian 1817). He joined the deaf students and
teachers in criticizing the policies of De Grando, especially with respect to the
introduction of oralism and the ongoing use of methodological signs. He was dis-
missed from the school in 1820. Bbian refused offers of appointment as head of
schools for the deaf in St. Petersburg and in New York and founded a school for
the deaf in the rue Montparnasse in Paris in 1826. He became director of the
school for the deaf in Rouen in 1832, but after conflicting with the administra-
tors of the school, he left in 1834. He wrote texts for the instruction of deaf stu-
dents and on the practical administration of schools for the deaf. His most en-
during legacy is his linguistic work on natural sign language.
6. As we will indicate later in chapter 9, this description could well describe
the currently popular method of Total Communication.
7. Clerc was committed to the use of methodological signs and rejected
Bbians call for the use of natural sign language. See Karacostas (1993, 135).
8. See Ringland and Gelston (1856) and Gallaudet (1867).
9. Baroness Mayer de Rothschild was the founder of the Jewish Deaf school
in London in 1863 and of a private college for training oral teachers of deaf stu-
dents in Fitzroy Square, London, in 1878. B. St. John Ackers was the founder in
1878 of the Training College for Teachers of the Deaf at Ealing in London.
10. Letters held in the archives of Gallaudet University reveal that Stainer
had been reluctant to adopt pure oralism in the School Board schools but had
felt obliged to do so because of pressure from his superiors. His greatest pleasure
in later life was, as Gilbys memoirs also reveal (Gilby Memoirs, 149), was
Eugenics and Pure Oralism 177

preaching in natural sign language, what became known later as British Sign
Language (BSL).
11. Charles Baker (18031874) was born 31 July 1803, the second son of
Thomas Baker of Birmingham. From 1826 to 1829, he was assistant at the Deaf
and Dumb Institution at Edgbaston. In 1829, he was invited to assist the Rev-
erend William Fenton in the establishment of a Deaf and Dumb Institution at
Doncaster in Yorkshire. He was head of the Doncaster institution until his death
in 1874. Bakers large library of books on the education of deaf students was sold
by his wife to Gallaudet University within six months of his death, much to the
displeasure of the schools board and other British teachers of the deaf.
12. The two volumes of Arnolds manual (1888, 1891) were edited and re-
vised by Abraham Farrar into a one-volume work (Farrar 1901). Arnold wrote at
length on the history of oralism and claimed his method as his own. Interestingly,
Henry Baker wrote to the Reverend Dr. Doddridge of Northampton in 1747
about his teaching, as quoted in chapter 7. Arnold had ready access to the Dod-
dridge papers and also to those of Henry Baker. These possible links between
Bakers methods and those of Arnold are currently being explored.
13. For a more detailed biography of Farrar, see Branson and Miller (1998b).
14. Northampton Mercury, 16 October, 1875.
15. These included the Times, Standard, Daily News, Daily Telegraph, and a
wide range of specialist and regional papers such as the Sunday School Chroni-
cle, Hand and Heart, Northampton Mercury, Deaf and Dumb Magazine,
Sheffield and Rotherham Independent, The Leeds Mercury, The Northampton
Herald, and The Lancet.
16. Times, 28 September, 1880.
17. Ibid.
18. See Hull (1877, 236).
19. Gallaudet papers, Gallaudet University Archives.
20. Gilby was an extremely prominent figure on the British deaf scene and
was the son of deaf parents. His father had been one of Britains leading deaf mis-
sioners, and Gilby was an ordained Anglican minister based at the London
church for the deaf, St. Saviours in Oxford Street. He was a fluent signer and ex-
tremely popular with the deaf community. His unpublished memoirs provide in-
valuable portraits of prominent figures and events through the nineteenth and
early twentieth centuries.
7
Cages of ReasonBureaucratization
and the Education of Deaf People
in the Twentieth Century: Teacher
Training, Therapy, and Technology

In chapter 2, we outlined how professionalism, bureaucratization, and


eugenics affected the cultural construction of the disabled through the
late-nineteenth century and into the twentieth. Here, we explore those
processes in relation to the education of deaf students. We continue to
focus on developments in Britain but turn also to related developments
in America and Australia. The histories of these three countries were
not self-contained but interrelated. Australia was a colonial outpost
of Britain, borrowing constantly from Britain for pedagogical ideas, re-
cruiting staff members direct from Britain and Ireland, and eventually
sending teachers to Britain for certification. American and British devel-
opments constantly affected each other as leading educators in both
countries exchanged ideas, attended conferences, and looked to one an-
other for expertise. Through the late-nineteenth century and the first
half of the twentieth, the forces of professionalization and bureaucrati-
zation along with the ideological dominance of eugenicism encompassed
the transformation of deaf education and the associated transformation
of processes that labeled a person as disabled.
The particular form that bureaucratization took in Britain radically
transformed the environment within which the education of deaf stu-

178
Bureaucratization and the Education of Deaf People 179

dents took place as well as the character and orientation of teachers.


During this period, individual schools lost financial and administrative
autonomy. Formal certification of teachers dominated teacher training
from 1909. Pressures mounted with the initiation of compulsory primary
education in 1870 and, later, of compulsory secondary education in
1944. These changes produced dramatic consequences for deaf students,
particularly profoundly and congenitally deaf students. The character of
our history changes in this period as heads of schools cease to be kings of
little empires in which they are pedagogically idiosyncratic and creative
and become part of a large, faceless bureaucracy. In this bureaucratic
age, individuals disappear from the historical record. We no longer look
to creative and dedicated individuals like Braidwood, lEpe, Fay, Gal-
laudet, Charles Baker, or Thomas Arnold as the sources of education de-
velopment. Rather, the history of education becomes the history of ed-
ucation acts and the work of education departments and government
agencies. The influential people, if individuals emerge at all, are those
who influence the shape and content of public policy. Thus, although the
presence of St. John Ackers, barrister and member of parliament, at the
Milan Congress of 1880 might have seemed anomalous at the time, his
presence announced the arrival of new figures on the historical stage,
those linked directly to government and to the institutionalized training
of experts.
A significantly wide range of factors influenced the development of
deaf education in Britain in the late-nineteenth century: the peculiarities
and timing of British bureaucratization; Britains involvement in major
wars at the turn of the century and through the first half of the twentieth
century; the effect of the British Empire on the character of the British
class system and on class consciousness; and an intensely imperial orien-
tation toward the English language. If we were to conclude, as so many
have done, that the contrasts between the development of deaf education
in Britain and America were somehow caused by divergent responses to
and participation in the Milan Congress, responses that were linked to
differences between a supposedly oralist Braidwood heritage in Britain
and a manualist Gallaudet heritage in Americaas is so often as-
sumedwe would miss the point entirely. Britains heritage was far from
oralist, as we have shown. The driving force of history by the end of
the nineteenth century was the state and its need for the effective ration-
alization of educational processes.
180 a sociological history of discrimination

The administrative rationalization of educational structures and


processes toward the end of the nineteenth century was also associated
with a more general rationalization of teaching methods. Included in this
trend was a reorientation of teaching toward practicality. The high edu-
cational ideals of the earlier decades in the nineteenth century gave way
to more vocationally oriented schooling. In an atmosphere dominated by
rationality and pragmatism, educators and administrators labeled natu-
ral sign language as completely impractical and nonrational, and they
responded to extreme ideological pressure to rationalize the form and
content of any other varieties of manualism they used. However, to un-
derstand what influenced these linguistic processes, we need to under-
stand the driving force behind the widespread rationalization of school-
ingbureaucratization. In Britain, the beginning of the bureaucracy in
deaf education dates essentially from 1885 as the Royal Commission on
the Conditions and Education of the Deaf and Blind began.

The Royal Commission on the Conditions


and Education of the Deaf and Blind
As we have already shown, Britain was not in any sense mainly oralist
before the Milan Congress or as a result of that conference. The same
was true in Australia, as we shall see. Of greater effect on the use of oral-
ism was the Royal Commission on the Conditions and Education of the
Deaf and Blind conducted from 1885 to 1889. The report mentioned the
oral system in favorable terms and also referred to the two Cabra schools
in Dublin as two of the older-fashioned institutions (United Kingdom
1890, 72) where signs were used. The sympathies of the chairman of the
commission were clearly with the oralists. Just after the commission
had begun, he opened a new wing of the Manchester school for the deaf
and declared, if only the education of the deaf were begun at an early
age, 99 out of 100 of the deaf and dumb could be taught to speak by the
oral system (quoted in Green 1997, 30). In truly eugenic style, the re-
port speculated on the causes of congenital deafness and mentioned that,
in Germany, Switzerland, and Italy where the oral system prevails
(United Kingdom 1890, 68), deaf people were less likely to marry other
deaf people than in countries where signing was used. The report also
mentioned that the religious activities of deaf people were conducted in
sign and that, among older deaf people, one could find opposition to
oralism. The report concluded that, although the oral system would ulti-
Bureaucratization and the Education of Deaf People 181

mately prevail, they do not, however, recommend such a sudden change


of system as was carried out in France after, and in consequence of the
Milan Conference (Royal Commission 1890, 76). They concluded that
all deaf children should be taught for one year at least on the oral system
and pointed to the need for state aid for the training of teachers.
The Royal Commission heard a vast number of submissions and
sought opinions from experts from overseas as well as from within
Britain. In the wake of the Milan Congress, the oralists saw the commis-
sion as an opportunity to press for widespread conversion to pure oral-
ism in Britain and were particularly diligent in the preparation of sub-
missions. Through their lobbying, Alexander Graham Bell was invited to
appear before the commission to represent pure oralism. Aware of the
political importance of the commission and of the fact that deaf people
were not being consulted by the commission, the deaf missioner and par-
liamentary lobbyist Francis Maginn lobbied successfully for the commis-
sion to invite Edward Miner Gallaudet to represent the combined
method and not the forms of manualism predominant in the British
schools.1 Although the report did favor a move to as much oralism as
feasible, its recommendations were oriented more toward funding and
coordinating the administrative processes required to realize compulsory
elementary education for deaf students than toward dictating what
method should be used. The commissions underlying assumption held
that deafness was an essentially medical condition that should be allevi-
ated in the best way possible to allow deaf people to be assimilated into
hearing society, which played into the hands of the pure oralists as they
interpreted the findings of the commission for the wider public.
Many teachers of deaf students and many deaf people themselves were
opposed to the recommendations of the commission, to the way those rec-
ommendations were reached, and to the way the recommendations were
reported in the press. A group of eminent British teachers of deaf students
wrote to The School Master, objecting to their reporting of the Royal
Commission, objecting to the bias of reporting in favor of pure oralism,
and clearly stating that the majority of British teachers of the deaf were
not in favor of pure oralism. They concluded nine years after Milan,

We fear that too much attention has been paid to the exaggerated state-
ments of those who advocate the pure oral method, while the views of the
deaf and dumb themselves, who are the persons most directly interested, are
taken little account of, or else contemptuously pooh-poohed. In many cases
182 a sociological history of discrimination

the pupils taught on the pure oral method find their so-called speech is of
very little real service to them, how hopeless it is for them to attempt to read
the lips of strangers with any degree of comfort or certainty, and, further,
how little lip-reading can be depended upon for holding anything ap-
proaching connected conversation. There is no doubt that the orally-taught
are often compelled to fall back upon the ordinary means of intercourse
used by deaf mutesviz., the manual alphabet and signs. Both in America
and in England the combined method is the one most generally followed,
and while we hope that one of the results of the prolonged and laborious
work of the Commission will be liberal State aid for the education of the
deaf, we do most sincerely trust (and here we speak in [sic] behalf of many
hundreds of this afflicted class) that the pure oral method will not become
the general system of instruction throughout the United Kingdom. (Sleight
et al. 1889)

These British teachers fears that the pure oral method was to become
the general system of instruction throughout Britain were eventually re-
alized by the mid-twentieth century, but the combined method in its
varied forms was predominant throughout much of Britain well into the
twentieth century. In the final decades of the nineteenth century, the
combined method, especially as conceptualized in America by Gal-
laudet and his colleagues, was to affect strongly the use of articulation
and the forms of signing used in deaf education. The effect would con-
tinue right to the present because this combined method of the late-
nineteenth century was to provide the base for the reintroduction of sign-
ing into deaf education beginning in the 1960s. Through Maginn, Elliott,
and others on whom he bestowed academic honors, Gallaudets cham-
pioning of the combined method in which articulation was prominent
hastened the breakdown of British manualism in which natural sign lan-
guage and fingerspelling were predominant.

The Rationalization of Signing


through the Combined Method
Edward Miner Gallaudet is quite rightfully seen as fighting for the use of
signing in deaf education at a time when pure oralism was about to
engulf the education of deaf students throughout the world, and he was
not alone, as our coverage of British reactions to Milan has shown. Iron-
ically, his form of the combined method in fact promoted the teaching
and use of articulation in deaf education.
Bureaucratization and the Education of Deaf People 183

Edward Miner Gallaudets


combined method promoted
the teaching and use of
articulation in deaf education.

By the time of the Milan Congress the concept of a combined


method was widely used. As Fays survey showed, the concept re-
ferred to a range of different methods that combined articulation and
signing. To understand the history of deaf education through the last
decades of the nineteenth century and the early decades of the twenti-
eth, one must understand how the concept of a combined method came
to dominate debates about method and to understand the unconscious
symbolic violence that was involved in supporting and using this ap-
proach. The combined method and not some sort of pure manualism is
what deaf and hearing people who opposed pure oralism increasingly
sought to retain. Thus, as Moores has clearly established, E. M. Gal-
laudet was not the champion of the manual-only method in deaf edu-
cation. In fact, E. M. Gallaudet played the key role in establishing
oral education in schools for deaf children in the United States and was
instrumental in gaining acceptance of a combined oral-manual philoso-
phy (Moores 1978, 59). It was Gallaudet who constantly encouraged
the teaching of articulationspeech and lipreadingin all schools for
the deaf.
[T]he man who in 1871 argued that sign language was used to excess . . .
felt constrained to defend the value of sign language in 1887 . . . and, clearly
on the defensive, before the end of the century wrote an article entitled
Must the Sign Language Go? . . . It has been pointed out . . . that Gal-
laudets position was consistent over the years. In 1868 he was in oppo-
sition to the prevalent manual-only system, and in 1899 he was speaking
out just as strongly against the dominant wave of the oral-only method.
(Moores 1978, 60)
184 a sociological history of discrimination

At the Columbia Institution, signing was essentially devalued as a med-


ium of instruction in educational matters.
On 27 February 1891, a letter appeared in Science from Edward Fay,
the vice president of the Columbia Institution for the Deaf (Gallaudet
College). In a previous issue, Alexander Graham Bell had stated that in
the Columbia Institution a foreign language (the sign language) is used as
the medium of instruction, whereas the rival methods employ the English
language alone for this purpose (quoted in Fay 1891). Fay replied:

In the Columbia Institution the sign language is not used as THE medium of
instruction. In some classes it is used as a medium of instruction, being em-
ployed to communicate with deaf children at the beginning course, when
they have no other means of communication whatever, and to promote their
mental development. . . . It is also used but very sparingly, in the earlier part
of the course of instruction in connection with the English language, to ex-
plain and illustrate the meaning of words where otherwise the explanation
could not be given at all; and it is used throughout the whole course for
public lectures and devotional exercises, no means of using the English lan-
guage having yet been discovered which will satisfactorily take its place for
this purpose. . . . There are classes in both the Kendall School and the Na-
tional Collegethe two departments of the Columbia Institutionin which
English is the only medium of instruction. (Fay 1891)

The description of the use made of signing could be a description of


language use in schools throughout Britain for most of the nineteenth
century, the main difference being the nature of the sign language in use.
In Britain, the sign language used was natural sign language and finger-
spelling. In Gallaudets college, it was a language of French and Ameri-
can heritage that was constructed for education, formed and trans-
formed by teachers of deaf students from lEpe to Edward Miner
Gallaudet.2 Gallaudet personally gave sign language lessons to his stu-
dents to teach them the signs required for their education. A former
student of the college, Olaf Hanson, is quoted in The Silent World as
saying,

Hearing people have sometimes asked me if I graduated in signs at the col-


lege. One can hardly help smiling at such questions, but I replied that we
do not, as a rule, use signs at the college.
This is the truth. In the recitation room the students use finger spelling
almost exclusively, and in general conversation the majority prefer this
Bureaucratization and the Education of Deaf People 185

mode of communication; though it must be admitted that a few whose pro-


ficiency in language is not all that could be desired, use signs to a greater ex-
tent than is good for them. (Hanson 18911909)

Described in this quote was the combined system that Francis Mag-
inn, who had been a former student at the Old Kent Road school and at
Gallaudets college, sought Gallaudets help to establish in opposition to
pure oralism in Britain and that Samuel Johnson sought, again through
Gallaudet, to retain in Adelaide, in opposition to the development of
pure oralism in Australia. Although the concept of the combined method
was applied to virtually any situation where elements of signing and
oralism were found together, the approach that was designed for educa-
tion and that combined the use of articulation, fingerspelling, and spe-
cialized, often initialized (Peet 1869), signs was the one that dominated
the fight against pure oralism in both America and Britain.3 In 1890, at
the first British National Deaf Conference that was held in the lecture
hall of St. Saviours church for the deaf in London, Maginn said,

Before I went to America I was rather one-sided, and opposed the teaching
of speech too much. But after entering the celebrated College in Washing-
ton, I saw that not only could speech be taught with much success, but that
those educated on the combined system spoke better than those educated on
the so-called pure oral method. (quoted in Grant 1993, 103)

The following resolution, proposed by Maginn, was carried by a large


majority: That this conference is of the opinion that the combined sys-
tem, as advocated by Dr. E. M. Gallaudet before the Royal Commission,
is calculated to confer the greatest benefit upon the greatest number of
the deaf and dumb (Grant 1993, 103). When Maginn succeeded in at-
tracting Joseph Tillinghast from America to head the school in Belfast,
he wrote to Gallaudet, We have BEATEN the English.4 Grant notes
that support for the combined system was to become one of the fun-
damental policies of the BDDA. Universal adoption of its modern devel-
opmentTotal Communicationremains to this day one of the BDAs
chief objectives (103).5 The symbolic violence of Total Communication
will be discussed in the following chapter, but of importance here is that
the American view of the combined method hastened the devaluation of
natural sign language in Britain.
Even among so-called manualists, signing became thoroughly subor-
dinate to and, most importantly, transformed by the prime focus on the
186 a sociological history of discrimination

acquisition of English, both spoken and written. The idea of using natu-
ral sign language as a language of instruction, indeed, the idea of sign
languages as languages in their own right, distinct from any spoken lan-
guage, was fast disappearing. Signing was becoming, in the eyes of edu-
cators, little more than a mode, a visual way of supporting the acquisi-
tion of the dominant spoken language. At the same time, schools using
the combined system, whatever its makeup, did at least recognize the
sensibilities of their pupils and, above all, understood the need for deaf
people to communicate with one another through manual means. By
1925 in England and Wales, only 25 percent of deaf pupils were receiv-
ing some instruction through fingerspelling or some form of manual
communication (Brill 1984, 80), and no deaf instructors were teaching;
all manual communication of any kind was being used by hearing teach-
ers (Brill 1984, 94). The English missions, in contrast to those in Amer-
ica, were all run by hearing people (Brill 1984, 99).
The alienation and individuation of groups who were judged patho-
logical increasingly encompassed deaf people, and pure oralism was the
main agent in the alienation process. In their battles with those who
sought to retain elements of signing as an integral part of deaf education,
the pure oralists had at least two trump cards up their sleeves: their al-
liance with medicine and bureaucracy in the classification of deafness
and deaf students and their control over the training of teachers of deaf
students.
The early twentieth century was an era of extreme imperial arrogance
and industrial development. In Britain, although the depression of the
1890s had shouted to the world a warning of the vagaries within the de-
veloping world economic system, those in positions of power and influ-
ence could see nothing but progress through the rational, scientific ap-
propriation of the worlds natural resourceshuman as well as vegetable
and mineral. The exploitation of labor power at home and abroad was
severe and ruthless, and the domination of the whole system by white
middle- and upper-class males was extreme. Nonetheless, the whole edi-
fice relied more than ever on ideological commitment to individualism
and equality, generating stark contradictions among the faceless workers
and privatized women for whom ideals of individuality and equality pro-
duced the opposite results. The era, therefore, also gave rise to move-
ments designed to achieve the human rights embodied in written and un-
written constitutionsfor universal suffrage, for womens rights, and
for the rights of individuals who were equal before the law.
Bureaucratization and the Education of Deaf People 187

As people sought to realize these central ideals, education emerged as


a vital ideological practicea process to which all should have equal ac-
cess as individuals, where each could achieve her or his individual poten-
tial in the acquisition of skills for eventual sale on the labor market. At
the same time, the schooling process also continued to serve as a normal-
izing process, as it serves today. As deaf children entered the schools for
the deaf at the dawning of the twentieth century, the majority did so de-
fined as pathological individuals with what was interpreted as a medical
condition, deafness, in need of therapeutic treatment that included edu-
cation to alleviate their symptoms of deafness as much as possible and,
thereby, at least to some degree, to make them seem normal.
We must stress, of course, that the agents in these processes of dis-
ablementacademics, scientists, teachers, benefactors, parents, and deaf
people themselveswere rarely conscious of the disabling effects stem-
ming from their ideas and actions. Although a sociological imagina-
tion reveals the discriminatory and oppressive social and cultural con-
sequences of pure oralism, many of the oralists firmly believed that they
were doing the best for their deaf pupils and that they were, indeed, the
true friends of the deaf. At this point, we continue to delve below the
threshold of consciousness to explore the unknown, the ignored, and the
usually unintended social and cultural consequences of everyday behav-
ior. We turn first to explore the effect of the bureaucratization of school-
ing on deaf education in Britain. The effect was, as we shall show, dra-
matic to say the least.

Bureaucracy and the Cultural Construction through


Education of Deaf People as Disabled in Britain
In the twentieth century there were children whose lives were no more than
a shuttling to and fro between Poor Law Institution and Deaf Institution,
and only the book-keeping aspect of the tragedy seemed to matter. (Hodg-
son 1953, 295)

As the education of deaf students ceased to be a charity supported by


benefactors and became a responsibility of the state, the disabling conse-
quences of the schooling process increased. In Britain and Europe, these
processes were also radically influenced by the social, economic, and
political effect of war, in particular, the Boer War in South Africa
(18991902), the First World War (19141918), and the Second World
188 a sociological history of discrimination

War (19391945). Until 1907, the one-third clause required schools


to continue to find one-third of their income from charity, but charity
was no longer as forthcoming as before. War and the depression of 1890
had had an effect, but more than that, the expectations of society at large
were changing. Although the expectation in France and America that the
state would take prime or sole responsibility for education had been in
place for some time, education in Britain had remained dependent on
private enterprise and the Protestant ethic of charitable works until late
in the nineteenth century. But by the 1880s, the British were embracing
the bureaucratic ethos with enthusiasm, looking to the state to coordi-
nate the Empire, the army, and education.
Of interest here is that attempts by Charles Baker to establish regular
conferences of principals of schools for the deaf in the early 1850s resulted
in two conferences but that the conferences ceased to operate by 1852
(Principals of the Institutions for the Deaf and Dumb 1852). The confer-
ences were revived in 1878 by Richard Elliott and David Buxton as the
Conference of Headmasters of Institutions and of Other Workers for the
Education of the Deaf and Dumb, which became an influential force in the
establishment of oralist education for deaf students in Britain. By 1878,
the focus had shifted from the purely educational concerns of principals
like Baker to the combined educational, medical, and welfare orientation
of workers for the education of the deaf and dumb. These professionals
were integral to the bureaucratization process and by 1890 were a vital
force to increase professionalism, stressing in their proceedings the need
for inspections of schools and the training of teachers in special institu-
tions (Proceedings of the Conference of Headmasters. . . . 1890).
From the 1880s, the responsibility for providing deaf children with
schooling was shared by the British Treasury and local educational au-
thorities. Although many of the old schools continued as before, some
with substantial endowments from wealthy benefactors, the payment of
fees was now a government responsibility. As far as most local educa-
tional authorities were concerned, the education of deaf students was
an administrative problem and a low priority. Although the 1889 report
of the Royal Commission had recommended substantial expenditure on
the education of deaf people and had at least focused reasonable atten-
tion on methodological and pedagogical issues, bureaucracy and finan-
cial shortages reduced the education of deaf children to an administrative
process requiring rational classificatory procedures and the cheapest
solutions.
Bureaucratization and the Education of Deaf People 189

The 1902 Education Act focused on the need to extend compulsory


education into the secondary sphere but paid no attention to deaf educa-
tion. Most deaf education continued only at the primary level with no
nursery or secondary provisions until well after the First World War.
Local education authorities sought the cheapest educational solutions for
the children in their localities, moving children from school to school to
save a few pounds (Hodgson 1953, 291) and, in many cases, not send-
ing deaf children to deaf schools at all but, rather, leaving them to cope at
home or in schools without any relevant staff or facilities. Although in-
terest groups such as teachers of deaf students, deaf associations such as
the British Deaf Association, missioners to the deaf community, and their
supporters in and out of parliament lobbied for increased expenditure on
deaf education, they had little effect through the first three decades of the
twentieth century.
Administrative concerns increasingly dominated the course of deaf
education. Recruitment for the Boer War had revealed high levels of un-
fitness among recruits, generating increased anxiety among eugenicists
and prompting increasing medical surveillance of and control over the
population. The 1907 Education Act made providing school medical
services compulsory. Inspections of school children throughout Britain
by the medical branch of the board of education, which was headed by
Dr. Eicholz, revealed larger numbers of deaf children than previously
thought. The bureaucratic state, with its administrative classification of
deafness as a medical condition and its associated treatment of the deaf
child as a pathological individual, was becoming the main agent in the cul-
tural construction of the deaf as disabled. The pure oralists were in the
wings, but for more than half a century after the Milan Congress, the iron
cage of bureaucracy is what defined the cultural parameters of deafness.
Although the board of education recommended in the first decade of the
twentieth century that the English language be taught by the oral method
where possible (Hodgson 1953, 292), administrative concern with what
went on in the schools was minimal. The bureaucrats expected the
medicos to define deafness, and the medicos expected the oralist teachers
to provide the treatment required to cure or at least ameliorate the med-
ical condition. Local education authorities evaded their legal responsi-
bilities toward deaf children where possible, discriminating by neglect:

The State was really indifferent to the deaf. The attitude was still that of
the 1889 Report [of the Royal Commission], which classified the deaf and
190 a sociological history of discrimination

the blind with the idiots and imbeciles. By this administrative cruelty the
State committed to one pitiful residuum all the children who would never
fire a gun. . . . The deaf did not matter. (Hodgson 1953, 292)

By 1913, twenty local education authorities were spending nothing on


deaf education.
The dual effect of bureaucracy and science on the defining of deaf peo-
ple was significant with the passing of the Mental Deficiency Bill in 1913,
arousing, as Hodgson recalls, the obvious fear that doctors ignorant of
the effects of deafness on behaviour would certify as defective deaf chil-
dren who were merely neglected (Hodgson 1953, 29394). He adds,
The worst thought was that such wrongful certification would save a
local authority the expense of educating the child (294). The institu-
tionalization of deaf children as mental defectives was far from un-
common.
In 1914, war came again, which affected economically and, this time,
demographically the education of the deaf. Men left the teaching profes-
sion to join the armed forces. Schools that were already underfunded and
now understaffed were forced to take in refugee deaf children from Bel-
gium. Deaf children were admitted to schools at a later age than other
children to defer costs. In the 1920s, as Britain suffered a postwar eco-
nomic slump, the cost of educating a deaf pupil at a residential deaf
school was stated to be 75 a year and was considered by the president
of the board of education, the Rt. Hon. H. A. L. Fisher, to be unduly ex-
pensive (Hodgson 1953, 295). In comparison, according to Hodgsons
study, At that time the average American expenditure on a deaf child
was 500 dollars a year, and 800 dollars in the most progressive States
(295). By the 1920s, educational standards were still slipping lower, and
deaf education was governed almost solely by administrative considera-
tions. The cage of reason was as restrictive as ever.
Although parents with private means could still find specialized
schooling for their deaf children at schools like Arnolds old school, the
Spring Hill School in Northampton, the vast majority of deaf children re-
ceived little but neglect between the wars. Government inquiries in 1932
and 1938 by the first and second Eicholz committees respectively, re-
vealed the tragic state of affairs in the education of deaf children. The
focus of the recommendations was on providing adequate educational
facilities for children with some hearing, a sad instance of the bias of
official interest in favour of the speaking and partially hearing deaf
Bureaucratization and the Education of Deaf People 191

children (Hodgson 1953, 296). But just as the 1938 report had begun
to focus attention on the needs of at least some deaf people, Britain was
again at war.
The immediate postwar period saw the passing of the 1944 Education
Act, designed to ensure compulsory secondary education for all. But deaf
students saw little improvement apart from the establishment of second-
ary education for the very privileged few at the newly established Mary
Hare Grammar School in 1946, complemented in 1955 by the Burwood
Park School, a secondary technical school, opened and supported by
private subscription.6 By 1950, hundreds of deaf children of school age
were not able to find places in schools for the deaf.
The failure to provide adequate funding to schools for the deaf had
two basic consequences: many schools were forced to close whereas oth-
ers, no longer able to cover the costs associated with residential pupils,
became day schools. The lack of places in deaf schools for many deaf
children and the shift to day schools for many of those who could find a
place were associated with a general redefinition in British society of the
very nature of childhood itself and of the role of the family in the moral
development of the child. These general changes were to have particu-
larly disabling consequences for deaf children.

The Day School and the Redefinition


and Individuation of Childhood
The early nineteenth century had seen the development of the private
boarding school, or public schools as they were and are known in
Britain. The boarding school became a place apart in which childhood
was managed to mould children on the pattern of an ideal human
being (Aris 1962, 284). This goal directly linked to the evolutionist
and proto-eugenicist intent of the white upper and middle classes. Board-
ing schools were, as were the asylums for deaf people as well as for those
who were blind or mad, also controlled moral environments where the
rational society took command. But the development of compulsory ed-
ucation at the end of the nineteenth century gave the nature and man-
agement of childhood a new twist. Aris writes:

The change which occurred in the school population at the end of the nine-
teenth century in favour of the day-boys did not interrupt this tendency
to set children apart, but it turned it in the direction of family life. The
192 a sociological history of discrimination

family was substituted for the school as the predominant moral setting. . . .
The central concern of the individual family was its own children. (Aris
1962, 285)

The state not only was asserting control over educational processes but
also was, albeit unconsciously, undermining the development of commu-
nal educational environments and reasserting the ideology of individual-
ism. As the old residential schools for the deaf became less and less viable
financially, day schools increased, and the vast majority of deaf children
became pathological individuals within hearing families instead of
members of a deaf educational community where language and identity
could be shared.
The move in Britain away from residential schools for deaf students
toward day schools was essentially governed by financial considerations,
but it was part of the general trend discussed by Aris and also was pro-
moted explicitly by the pure oralists. Bell campaigned for day schools for
deaf students to ensure that these children remained integrated within
their hearing families rather than allowed to form close communal bonds
with their deaf peers. Of the remaining schools for deaf students in
Britain in 1925, twelve were independent residential schools, eight were
residential schools run by local authorities, and the remaining twenty-
nine were day schools run by local authorities (McLoughlin 1987, 77).
From 1947 on, this trend toward the individuation of the child was to be
promoted further by moving away from special schools for those judged
partially hearing and moving toward partially hearing units in
mainstream schools. These moves paved the way for deaf students to be
included in the integration or mainstreaming movement of the late
1980s.
In 1950, the Advisory Council on Education in Scotland published a
report drawing attention to the language problems faced by deaf stu-
dents under the oral system, the oral failures. By this stage, all deaf ed-
ucation in Britain was essentially oralist though not necessarily purely
oralist. In fact, oralism never became a formal educational policy in
Britain at either the professional or the governmental levels. The in-
tensely disabling effect of the age of bureaucracy had promoted the cause
of pure oralism, often, by default because, as the machinery of govern-
ment sought to classify and administer, it looked not only to the medicos
to diagnose but also to the teachers to provide the pedagogical environ-
Bureaucratization and the Education of Deaf People 193

ment required to assimilate the deaf child into the hearing world as much
as possible. Thus, we return to the other side of the coin of bureaucrati-
zation, professionalism, and its links to pure oralism.

Teacher Training in Schools for Deaf


Children in Nineteenth-Century Britain
Writing at a time when formal teacher training for teachers of the deaf
had been established and when pure oralism was dominant, the Rev-
erend F. W. G. Gilby reflected on earlier times when teachers were trained
on the job and the use of signing was accepted.

I am inclined to think that the old uncertified and sometimes rather illiterate
teacher who was a volunteer, and worked from sheer love of the deaf, was
at times able to produce results in the lives of his pupils in the way of form-
ing character aright which are not met with so often now. Some teachers
who are now paid decent salaries have not the fire of those old pioneers
who evolved their own methods, building upon those of [Henry] Baker and
[Thomas] Braidwood. We have certainly got rid of the old atmosphere, the
fear of change, and of fresh air. But religious principles are less and less
being inculcated. The old order has broken up as I see it, in order that God
might fulfil himself in other ways, and some of these better ways have not
yet arrived. The way for them has however been cleared. Too much has
been expected from the oral method and too much has been promised by
two or three outstanding boastful spirits . . . articulation, lipreading and
silent methods, will all go forward and have their just places, in the educa-
tion of the deaf child. A teacher who has learned but one method of teach-
ing is surely only partially equipped for his task. (Memoirs, 14445)

Jacoby notes that, in Britain, the arrested growth of administrative


centralization permitted the aristocratic rule of the eighteenth century
and the autonomy of local institutions with amateur and unpaid officers
who often failed to perform their duties (Jacoby 1973, 165). Although
many teachers of deaf children in the nineteenth century did not fail to
perform their duties, the education of deaf students was characterized
by the autonomy of the individual schools and an in-house mode of train-
ing. Jacobys general comments are filled out by Silberman as he analyzes
how expertise in administration became formalized and standardized in
Britain and America during the later-nineteenth century. By the end of the
194 a sociological history of discrimination

nineteenth century, experts of many kinds attempted to create uni-


form definitions of expert training (Silberman 1993, 417). Professionals
sought certification through formal educational institutions, thereby
committing themselves to a body of norms governing the use of expert-
ise as a condition of certification (Silberman 1993, 418). These were
precisely the processes that transformed the schooling of deaf students.

The Apprenticeship System


For most of the nineteenth century, school teachers in general had been
trained through an apprenticeship system in the schools; the same was
true for teachers of deaf children. No teacher training institutions had
been established. The Braidwood legacy spread only through the pupil-
teacher system. The process of learning on the job, whether through
Braidwood or within the parish schools, was slow. Thomas Braidwood,
for example, trained assistant teachers at the school over a seven-year
period. His assistants were mainly family members: his daughter Isa-
bella, nephew and son-in-law John, grandsons John and Thomas, and
nephew Joseph Watson. This system of training teachers in the schools
had become the practical way to supply teachers for the burgeoning
number of deaf schools that had been established as charity institutions
for children of poor families.7
With the rapid expansion of the first London school for children who
were poor and deaf, Joseph Watson had used the apprenticeship method
to train teachers, a method of training continued both by Thomas Wat-
son, Josephs son, and then by Thomass son, the Reverend James
Watson. The Old Kent Road school thus provided many of the headmas-
ters and teachers for the other schools as they were established in quick
succession. Many of the most prominent teachers in the 1800s started
their careers in this way. Entry into the school was usually by way of
a recommendation from a family friend or relative. Thus, David Buxton
joined the staff of the Old Kent Road school in 1841 when he was nine-
teen years old, on the recommendation of the Reverend Alexander Wat-
son of St. Andrews Ancoats, a relative of Dr. Watson whom he had met
through a mutual interest in literature. Buxton lived at the school for ten
years, first as a junior before rising to the position of assistant head
teacher. He left in 1851 to become headmaster of the Liverpool Institu-
tion, replacing the Reverend Rhind who had also trained at the Old Kent
Road school under Joseph Watson.
Bureaucratization and the Education of Deaf People 195

William Stainer, who was to become one of the leaders among edu-
cators of deaf people, also joined the school as a trainee teacher when
he was fourteen years old. He had previously taught students at St.
Thomass endowed school, where his father was master, and had been a
student at the National Societys Training School at Westminster. Or-
dained in 1872, he took responsibility for the establishment of the Lon-
don Metropolitan School Board classes in 1874, the first to be estab-
lished under a local authority after the passing of the 1870 Education
Act.
Another contemporary of Stainer and Buxton at the Old Kent Road
school, E. J. Chidely, attended the school as a youth and taught there
from 1838 until 1856 when he took over the headmasters position of
Claremont Institution, Dublin. Two other contemporaries of Stainer and
Buxton, McDiarmid and Large, also became principals at Donaldsons
Hospital, Edinburgh after being trained at the Old Kent Road school.8
A few prominent pioneers started life as schoolmasters in schools for
hearing children and then moved into the field of deaf education. An-
drew Patterson, who was a teacher of deaf children for almost fifty years,
started work as a schoolmaster in Devonshire. While there, he became
friendly with a Mr. H. B. Bingham, the then headmaster of the Exeter
Deaf and Dumb School. Not long afterwards, Bingham became head-
master of the Manchester School and soon asked Andrew Patterson to
join him as assistant master. After five years, Patterson left to establish
the Newcastle Deaf, Dumb and Blind Schools before returning to Man-
chester as headmaster upon Binghams retirement in 1842, a position he
held until 1883. Richard Elliott, who had had a village school in the
Weald, Kent before becoming second master at Latymer Endowed
School Hammersmith, joined the Old Kent Road school in 1857. His
knowledge of deaf education was also learned on the job. This tradition
of apprenticeships explains why the methods used and the curricula
taught in Britain were so consistent.
The Braidwood influence was not confined to London. In Edinburgh,
Robert Kinniburgh was trained by John Braidwood and took over from
him after his departure for America. Kinniburgh also received additional
training from Watson in London. Thomas Braidwood, a grandson of the
first Braidwood, was headmaster of the Birmingham Institution at Edg-
baston, close to where Charles Baker lived as a child. After viewing a
public examination of the students at that school, Baker became inter-
ested in their education. By the age of fourteen, he was already a popular
196 a sociological history of discrimination

Sunday school teacher and well known to the leading men of the city.
When Braidwood had to leave Birmingham for a few weeks in 1818,
Baker was the obvious choice to take over, which he did successfully.
Braidwood refused to consider him for a permanent position in the
school, and so at the age of seventeen, Baker took charge of a small
school at Wednesbury. He returned to Birmingham in 1826. By then,
Braidwood had died, and Du Puget, a pupil of Petsalozzi, was headmas-
ter. He employed Baker who stayed for three years. In 1829, after three
years teaching experience, he was appointed as headmaster of the newly
established Yorkshire Institution at Doncaster. Before long, Bakers chief
assistant, Sleight, whom he had trained, took over as headmaster of the
newly founded Brighton Institution. Sleight was, in fact, second choice;
the governing board had already offered the position to Thomas Arnold
who had declined the position on religious grounds.
In addition, the church, the missions, and the schools were known to
interchange personnel. In 1854, Samuel Smith, a young teacher who had
trained under Charles Baker at Doncaster, was employed as a missionary
by the Association in Aid of the Deaf, a post he held until his death in
1883. Similarly, Charles Rhind began his training as a teacher at the Old
Kent Road school under Dr. Watson when he was sixteen and, after
being principal at Ulster, Aberystwith, Swansea, and Edinburgh, joined
Smith as a missioner in 1860. He was ordained in 1878 and then in 1883
succeeded Smith as missioner to the Association in Aid of the Deaf until
his death in 1888. In other cases, qualified ministers or missionaries who
often had been connected with the provision of Sunday schools later be-
came principals of schools. The Reverend John Kingham is a good ex-
ample, having first been involved with Sunday schools that included the
deaf and dumb before being elected as principal of the Ulster Institution
in 1853.

The Certification of Teachers of the Deaf


The oralists were the prime movers in the establishment of formal train-
ing for teachers of the deaf in Britain. In 1872, The Association for the
Oral Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb and Training College for Teach-
ers was established through the ongoing patronage of the Baroness
Mayer de Rothschild with William Van Praagh of the Jews Deaf and
Dumb Home as director. The college was established as an extension
of the Jewish oral school, the Jews Deaf and Dumb Home, which had
been founded by the Baroness de Rothschild in 1863. The new schools
Bureaucratization and the Education of Deaf People 197

purpose was twofold: to educate non-Jewish children through the pure


oral method and to train teachers in the method.
Six years later, in 1878, the Training College for Teachers of the Deaf
was established by B. St. John Ackers at Ealing in London with Arthur
Kinsey as principal and David Buxton as secretary. The full name of the
college was the Society for Training Teachers of the Deaf and Diffusion
of the German System in the United Kingdom. Its first graduate was
a Miss Isabel Jennings in 1879. As in America, the trainees for teaching
through the oral method were virtually all women. At the Ealing College,
out of nearly one hundred trainees during its first ten years, only two
were men, and they were paid a salary to attend whereas all women paid
fees.
At a conference held by the Economic Science Section of the British
Association in August 1879, Farrar demonstrated the success of the oral
method after papers advocating its adoption in schools for the deaf and
dumb were presented by David Buxton and Susannah Hull. In response,
the British Association established a committee to report on the educa-
tion of deaf students and, in 1880, recommended state support for deaf
education through the German system and state aid to training insti-
tutions (Report of the Fiftieth Meeting of the British Association for the
Advancement of Science 1880).
Both the Milan Congress and the Royal Commission further stimu-
lated these moves for the formal training of teachers of deaf people. The
Governing Bodies of Institutions for the Deaf in Great Britain met to
consider the Milan Congress on 17 March 1881. Susanna Hull, from the
oral group who had been in Milan, suggested the following motion:

[I]n the teaching of the deaf as of hearing children, the conference earnestly
recommends to the governing bodies of institutions of the deaf that a cer-
tificate from a training college be required of every applicant for the posi-
tion of teacher. (Gallaudet 1881, 269)

At the conference of Headmasters of Institutions and of other workers


for the education of the Deaf and Dumb, held at the Statistical Societies
rooms, Kings College London from 2224 June 1881, discussion again
focused on the need to train teachers, particularly in the oral method,
rather than a plan to continue the traditional pupil-teacher system
(Proceedings of the Conference of Headmasters. . . . 1881). During the
Conference of English Headmasters (London, 13 July 1885), at the
suggestion of Mr. Elliott, of Margate, and Mr. Stainer, of London, the
head-masters of English institutions decided to organize an Examining
198 a sociological history of discrimination

Board for teachers of the deaf (Fay 1885, 17374). Those at the con-
ference decided that knowledge of articulation and knowledge of signs
and fingerspelling will probably be optional on the part of candidates,
but the certificate will specify the subjects in which they have passed
(1885, 174).
Thus, in 1885, the College of Teachers of the Deaf was founded with
Sir John Ackers as president and Richard Elliott and William Stainer as
vice presidents. The college was incorporated on 21 May 1887. At the
conference of Headmasters of Institutions and of other workers for the
education of the Deaf and Dumb, held at Royal Association in aid of
Deaf and Dumb, St. Saviours, Oxford St., London, 810 January 1890,
talk focused strongly on the need for increasing professionalism, the need
for inspections of schools, and the need for the training of teachers in
special institutions (Proceedings of the Conference of Headmasters. . . .
1890). The first number of the journal The Teacher of the Deaf, pub-
lished in January 1903, raised the topic of the registration of teachers of
deaf students as a vital issue and indicated clearly how this issue was in-
tegrally linked to the certification of teachers, a certification process de-
pendent on examination processes run by existing training colleges. This
article signaled an ongoing obsession with the professionalization of
teachers of deaf students that continued to dominate editorials in the
journal, especially under the editorship of Susanna Hull.
On 1 September 1909, the board of education brought into effect reg-
ulations requiring all new teachers of deaf students to have special train-
ing and certification that was recognized by the board in addition to any
training that was required for elementary school teachers. In 1912, the
Ealing and Fitzroy Square colleges were amalgamated as the National
Association for the Oral Instruction of the Deaf. The Ealing and Fitzroy
Square colleges were closed in 1918 and 1919, respectively. In 1919, Sir
James Jones, a wealthy industrialist who had a deaf son, provided funds
to establish the National Training College for Teachers of the Deaf in the
University of Manchester. The centralization and professionalization of
teacher training for teachers of the deaf had been achieved.

The Education of Deaf People Becomes a Caring


Profession: The Feminization of Teaching
The formalizing and centralizing of teacher training for the education of
deaf people was part of a wider process of professionalization that was
Bureaucratization and the Education of Deaf People 199

accompanied by the feminization of the profession, especially at the pri-


mary level. These processes signaled not only a new role for the state in
the administration of education but also changing attitudes toward
childhood, changes that were to accentuate the individuation of the deaf
child. The education of deaf people was thenceforth virtually, though not
entirely, oral. It was completely dominated by hearing people. Deaf peo-
ple were now deprived of any control over their own education, indeed,
over their own deafness. They were objects to be dealt with by teachers,
doctors, and welfare workers. Their alienation was extreme.
In America, the disenfranchisement of deaf teachers also accompanied
the institutionalization of teacher training and the associated increasing
concentration on the teaching of articulation. In 1891, Gallaudet applied
to Congress for funds to establish a teacher-training school at Gallaudet
College. Gallaudet assured Bell that deaf students would not be admitted
(see Mackay 1997, 24647). Bells wishes were fulfilled: The new
teacher-training school established in 1891 at Gallaudet College, a lib-
eral arts college primarily for deaf students, itself refused, as a matter of
policy, to train deaf teachers (Baynton 1996, 25). Similarly, women in-
creasingly predominated in the profession

as the image of both deaf people and the occupation of teaching deaf people
was domesticatedin both senses of the word. The virtues of the intrepid
[male] explorer and rescuer of lost souls gave way to the homely and pas-
sive [female] virtues of patience and fidelity. (Baynton 1996, 71)9

As Winzer notes,

Nearly all women choosing deaf education as an occupation during the final
three decades of the nineteenth century took positions in oral schools. Here,
despite their exclusion from specific universities and their denial of status in
the manual institutions, they could receive training and achieve certified ex-
pertise. In fact, in many schools it became an unwritten policy to hire only
women. (Winzer 1993, 241)

The predominance of women in the profession starkly signaled the


radical transformation of orientations toward the education of deaf stu-
dents and of wider social dispositions toward deafness and deaf people.
Deaf people were no longer conceptualized as an interesting people
akin to a tribe of savages. They were no longer culturally different ob-
jects of intellectual and missionary speculation, no longer the province
of the gentleman explorer and amateur anthropologist. Their difference
200 a sociological history of discrimination

was thoroughly individuated, an individual and pathological expression


of the normal individual, the difference defined as a lack, a hearing
loss, to be remedied through pedagogical and technological means.
Now, disabled individuals were in need of care and cure. The educa-
tion of deaf students had become a caring profession, like nursingthe
province of women.

Education as Therapy: The Alliance of


Bureaucracy, Oralism, and Technology
The ultimate disabling of the deaf as a cultural and linguistic group
through the individuation of their deafness, which defined deafness as a
lack, as a loss, was expressed not only in the move to pure oralism and in
the feminization of the teaching profession but also in the renewed focus
on making deaf people hear through technological aids. Although ear
trumpets and other aids had been made and used for centuries, the use of
aids in education did not begin until the end of the nineteenth century,
in tandem with the spread of pure oralism. In the late 1880s, the Royal
School for the Deaf at Margate experimented with the use of the audi-
phone, an American invention designed to allow deaf people to hear
through their teeth. The audiphone was a large, curved, comb-like object
held against the teeth to pick up the vibrations of a persons voice. The
device proved to be a failure, giving rise to the comment: The only use
of the audiphone is to those who sell it (quoted in Beaver 1992, 146).
In 1895, the medical officer at Margate invented and patented a tele-
transmitter and earphone powered by three dry-cell batteries which en-
abled speech reading to take place and which several children could use
if the number of earphones was increased. This was the start of teaching
with hearing aids at Margate (Beaver 1992, 146). This period was a
time of scientific invention, with the wireless and telephone making a
particular effect. The development of hearing aids was a spin-off that
was advanced by the involvement of Alexander Graham Bell in the lives
and education of deaf people.
The development of hearing aids to counteract hearing loss contin-
ued apace and with great ingenuity, as the pages of The Albion Magazine
clearly illustrate. The Albion Magazine, begun in 1908, was specifically
oriented to providing deaf people with information about the latest de-
velopments in hearing aids while alerting them to the dangers of con-
sulting quacks claiming to cure deafness. Lists of Quacks the Deaf
Bureaucratization and the Education of Deaf People 201

should avoid appeared in each number of the magazine. The magazine


included articles on the development of the audiphone for class use,
which involved linking students by tubes to a central transmitter, and ar-
ticles on the wonders to be found at The Paradise for the Deaf, a shop
in the Strand, London, established in the early 1800s, which stocked a
vast range of hearing aids, including acoustic chairs and invisible aids
secured beneath the hair (Yellon 1908). Science and technology were as-
sumed to be triumphing over quackery.
Alexander Graham Bells genius in the development of acoustic equip-
ment, not least of which, of course, was the telephone, stimulated wide-
spread research into the development of acoustic equipment both to test
and to promote hearing. Various attempts were made to develop this
equipment such as individual and group hearing aids, but not until the
late 1920s did inventors develop audiometers that were considered to
be capable of effectively testing hearing. Wearable hearing aids did not
emerge until the 1930s, and only much later, in the 1950s, were small,
lightweight hearing aids developed.
By the 1930s, audiometers for testing hearing and hearing aids were
becoming standard equipment in schools for the deaf. The students were
wired up, plugged in, and turned on to the hearing worldsupposedly.
Technological progress, it was assumed or at least hoped, was overcom-
ing the frailties of nature. Science was triumphant. But deaf people re-
mained a pathological presence. Developments in the production of
hearing aids proceeded apace with the development of transistors and
then of microchip and digital technology. For those for whom the ampli-
fication of sound is successful, the technology has provided clearer and
more effective access to the hearing world. Of that fact there is no doubt,
but for deaf people for whom sign language is the only language they can
access in any comprehensive way, these technological developments are
of little beneficial consequence as far as access to sound-based languages
is concerned. Their actual consequence is that the hearing authorities
continue to assume that science can overcome the supposed pathology of
deafness and that oral education is both viable and desirable.
As the cages of reason encompassed the education of the deaf, oralism
triumphed, even where the combined method was used; signing was ra-
tionalized and thus transformed to meet the needs of teaching spoken
English. But the triumph of oralism was essentially hollow for two rea-
sons. First, as the government and its agencies assumed control of educa-
tion, they failed. In an era of wars and economic depression, they did not
202 a sociological history of discrimination

deliver the necessary financial support to provide the resources needed by


deaf students and their teachers. Second, pure oralism as a method failed
to generate educated, speaking graduates, except in the most exceptional
and privileged cases. In an atmosphere of increasing prosperity after the
Second World War, oralist teachers looked to technology and therapy to
provide the key to success.

Notes
1. For a discussion of Fays 1881 survey of the methods used in British
schools, see chapter 6 and the appendix to this volume.
2. For a discussion of the battles over the use of various forms of signing in
deaf education in nineteenth-century America, including methodological signs,
natural signs, and initialized signs, see Stedt and Moores (1990).
3. Initialized signs are signs that use at least the first letter of the English word
as the basis for the development of the sign.
4. Gallaudet correspondence, Gallaudet University Archives.
5. British Deaf and Dumb Association (BDDA), which became the British
Deaf Association (BDA).
6. For information on the Mary Hare school and Mary Hare herself, see
Boyce and Lavery (1997, 1999). The current prospectus of the Mary Hare
school, including a history of the school, is also available on the World Wide
Web at http://www.bme.jhu.edu/tratnana/mhgs.html.
7. This tradition of teacher training explains why Thomas Gallaudet could
not be given details about teaching techniques in a short time. To learn about
teaching techniques, he had to serve an apprenticeship.
8. For a history of Donaldsons College, Edinburgh, formerly Donaldsons
Hospital, see Montgomery (1997).
9. See Baynton (1996, 71ff.) and Winzer (1993, 234ff.) for discussions of the
increasing role of women in the education of deaf students beginning in the later-
nineteenth century.
8
The Denial of Deafness in
the Late-Twentieth Century:
The Surgical Violence of
Medicine and the Symbolic
Violence of Mainstreaming

The years after the Second World War saw the firm consolidation of
oralism throughout the Western world and of the technologies associ-
ated with the treatment of hearing loss. In Britain, Farrars example
continued to promote high hopes among parents and teachers of deaf
students, but higher education for deaf people remained very limited.
The Spring Hill School, the direct descendent of Arnolds school, closed
during the Second World War to be effectively replaced in 1946 by the
newly established Mary Hare Grammar School, the first secondary
school for deaf students in Britain (see Boyce and Lavery 1997). In 1955,
the Burwood Park School, a secondary technical school, was opened and
was supported by private subscription. The education at both establish-
ments was firmly oral and residential, with entry through competitive
examinations.
The overall education of deaf children was governed by the view of
deaf people as suffering a hearing loss and as being hearing impaired
rather than deaf. Testing ensured that they were divided in terms of rela-
tive hearing impairment. As a result of government inquiries, special

203
204 a sociological history of discrimination

schools for the partially deaf were opened in Britain. By 1959,


the term partially deaf had been replaced by the concept partially
hearing:

This change in terminology reflected the developments in audiology and


electronic hearing aids which made it easier to ascertain and exploit residual
hearing. In consequence, the numbers of deaf children declined while the
incidence of partial hearing rose. There was also greater emphasis on
integration and the education of hearing-impaired children in ordinary
rather than special schools. (Lysons 1987, 302)

Society had faith in the audiologist to measure the impairment and


faith in the hearing aid technology to compensate for the loss. The hear-
ing specialists and teachers assumed much about what the pupils could
hear and achieve. Although academic excellence was a feature of the
Mary Hare school and, to a lesser extent, the Burwood Park school,
places were few, and competitive entrance ensured that those with cul-
tural advantages of family background and, above all, who responded
well to oralism, went on to higher education.
Through an alliance with medicine whereby deafness became a med-
ical pathology to be therapeutically treated, oralists deprived deaf peo-
ple of their linguistic unity and thereby fostered their individuated de-
pendence on the wider hearing society. Deaf students remained firmly
institutionalized in special schools or in special units within mainstream
schools, but they were divided and ruled by an increasingly complex
bevy of professionalsteachers, therapists, doctors, and acoustic engi-
neers.
The increasing sophistication of audiometry in the 1930s and the as-
sumed expertise of audiologists in determining levels of hearing ensured
that deafness could be treated as an individual pathology. Professionals
now assumed that no two deaf children were really equivalent in their
deafness but, rather, that the individual levels of hearing loss or partial
hearing could be rationally divided into groups according to educational
potential. Educational potential meant potential to acquire spoken
language through the use of residual hearing, enhanced by means of
hearing aids. The educability of a child varied according to the degree
to which the technology was assumed able to compensate for the hear-
ing loss. In 1938, the Eicholz committee had decided that all children
with a hearing loss of more than 40 decibels on the Gramophone Au-
diometer were outside the terms of reference of its investigation into
The Denial of Deafness 205

Children with Hearing Defects and were essentially viewed as inedu-


cable. By the late 1940s, the London School Board classified children
having a hearing loss in the range of 37 to 79 decibels as able to be ed-
ucated using natural language (Crickmore 1995, 114). Natural lan-
guage was, of course, assumed to be spoken English.

The School as Clinic


Teacher training for teachers of deaf students not only ensured that all
teachers were hearing but also, in the period after the Second World War,
increasingly focused on speech therapy and the use of acoustic equip-
ment. In schools, a vast amount of time was spent fixing and adjusting
hearing aids and ear molds with most of the rest of the time spent on
speech therapy. Education often lagged far behind. The children with
partial hearing remained classified as handicapped and, thus, as
disabled, but they no longer had a deaf identity and did not have ac-
cess to sign language. Even in the late 1980s during visits to leading oral
schools in Britain to discuss educational programs, one was led straight
to the clinic and workshop to be shown the facilities for testing hearing,
making ear molds for hearing aids, and adjusting hearing aids. The cen-
tral focus of the school was on its ability through science and technology
to produce hearing, speaking students. Academic matters were second-
ary. The pedagogical gaze had become a clinical gaze.
The link between the clinical gaze and the schools was embodied
in the leading teacher trainers and educational ambassadors in and for
Britain through the 1940s and 1950s, Dr. Irene Ewing (18831959) and
Professor Alexander Ewing (18961980) from the University of Man-
chester. In 1919, Dr. Irene Ewing, formerly Irene Goldsack, became the
foundation lecturer and director of the National Training College for
Teachers of the Deaf in the University of Manchester. In 1922, she mar-
ried Dr. Alexander Ewing, who ran a private clinic for deaf people in
Manchester from 1922 until 1944. The Ewings were ardent pure oralists
and stressed the clinical aspects of the diagnosis and treatment of deaf-
ness. They toured the British Commonwealth spreading the gospel of
pure oralism. Even beyond Britain and its Commonwealth, their effect
was considerable, especially through the International Congress on Edu-
cation of the Deaf held at Manchester in 1958.1 At the opening of the
Congress, Sir A. W. G. Ewing spoke about deaf children in a new age
and emphasized collaboration among otolaryngologists, pediatricians,
206 a sociological history of discrimination

medical officers, general practitioners, audiologists, teachers of the deaf,


and parents as a regular working arrangement (Brill 1984, 142).
In 1944, Dr. Alexander Ewing became Professor of Education of the
Deaf in the University of Manchester and Director of the Education of
the Deaf, a position he held until 1964. His orientation was overtly med-
ical. At this stage, the deaf schools and units became virtual clinics. Deaf
education became little more than audiometry and speech therapy. Pro-
fessor Ewing received the Norman Gamble prize of the Royal Society of
Medicine in 1943 and was knighted for his services to deaf education in
1959, the year of his wifes death.
Success in the Ewing-style school was directly equated with the abil-
ity to speak. Not to be able to speak was failure. Sign language was not
simply scorned, it was forbidden. The goal, above all, was to transform
the deaf child into a hearing adult. One senior British teacher of the
deaf who had trained in the 1950s and who remained an ardent pure
oralist in the Ewing tradition told the authors, Oralism produces edu-
cated people. Education through signing produces educated deaf peo-
ple. The goal was to transcend deafness, not to accept it. And, of
course, only a minority of students could do so. Educational potential
was identified with the level of hearing determined through clinical ex-
amination.
The reaction of one deaf student from the schools of the 1960s, the
Deaf British activist and researcher Paddy Ladd, is telling.

Oh Ewing, Oh Van Uden, what a marvelous choice you gave us deaf chil-
dren!2 To see ourselves as stupid rather than to be able to see ourselves as
deaf and accept it, and to work from there. I hope it gave you a sense of real
achievement! (Ladd 1991, 93)

The wide effect of the Ewings can be seen from developments in Aus-
tralia after their visit in 1950. In 1953 at the Fifth Triennial Conference
of the Australian Association of Teachers of the Deaf at Darlington in
Sydney, participants formally resolved that, henceforth, all education of
deaf students in Australia would be oral, that sign language was not to
be used as a medium of instruction, and that finger spelling and ges-
tures were outmoded. Professional teacher training for teachers of
deaf students did not begin in Australia until 1954, after a psychologist
went to Manchester in England to work with the Ewings and acquire
the skills required to set up specialized training courses in Australia.
Responding directly to developments in Britain in the 1950s, a pure
oral government school, Glendonald, was established in Melbourne,
The Denial of Deafness 207

Australia. Students at the old Victorian School for Deaf Children in


Melbourne (VSDC) were tested constantly and moved to the oral school
if they showed potential to benefit from speech therapy. Students were
made to feel that they were failures if they remained at VSDC. Jennifer
Toms and Brian Bernal recall their days as profoundly deaf pupils at
VSDC in the early 1950s:

A separate school for oral deaf was built. It was the start of the division
of the Deaf community. Those whose teachers felt were clever enough to
learn to speak were removed and sent to the new oral only school where no
teachers could sign. . . .
But at the old deaf school excitement was happening for those of us left
behind. Rumours ran rife. They built a new storey on the old school. Special
children were to be chosen to go into a special class. Who would they pick??
At last we knew. Jenny was one of the special ones. Full of hope and ex-
citement we went to our new class. But we couldnt understand what the
teachers saidthey spoke.
School sportsagain we were tricked. We now had other schools to
compete against. The great day arrived and the Glendonald (oral) school
arrived. We couldnt communicate. They knew no signs and thought we
were dummies. We were too stupid to go to the oral school. (Bernal and
Toms 1996, 5859)

Those who were judged incapable of benefiting from oralism were es-
sentially treated as outcasts and as capable of only basic education. They
were segregated so they would not pollute those working in the oral tra-
dition, and eventually, they were taught together with students with
multiple handicaps (Bernal and Toms 1996, 59).
In the 1950s in Melbourne, a pure oral kindergarten was established
not only to channel students into pure oral primary and secondary
schooling but also to provide for the segregation of children at kinder-
garten level on the basis of their family background.3 Children of Deaf
parents who came from signing households were all sent to the VSDC,
kept apart from the children of hearing and deaf parents who came from
nonsigning households and who were sent to the oral Princess Elizabeth
kindergarten. Professionals feared that the signers would teach the other
children to sign and retard their educational potential, which was as-
sumed to be entirely oral. Teachers not only counseled parents not to let
their children sign but also sent letters home advising parents not to let
their children socialize with other deaf people in the Adult Deaf Society,
which was still a strong signing environment.
208 a sociological history of discrimination

The Exception Determines the Rule


Through the twentieth century, publicists for oralism continued to look
to the success of selected pupils, Farrar in particular, to support their
faith in oralism.4 Individual deaf people apart from Farrar continued to
succeed through oralist systems, showing exceptional abilities to cope
with voicing and lipreading and to achieve high standards of literacy in
the dominant language.5 But they were exceptions to the rule. Educa-
tional policies were based on the abilities and achievements of a very
small minority. Ideological assertions of the existence of equality fre-
quently claim legitimacy on the basis of the exceptional. Those who deny
the existence of class-based, gender-based, racially based, or ethnically
based barriers to success within the middle-class market often support
their claims by giving publicity to the working-class boy who made it,
the woman in a high position of responsibility, or to the black lawyer
or migrant businessman. These denials, which revel in the cult of the
individual, ignore the copious sociological research demonstrating time
and again that these cases of upward mobility are exceptional and that,
for the vast majority of the population, the cultural, economic, and po-
litical forces restricting access to societys resources operate to reproduce
structured inequalities. Paddy Ladd poignantly places his own experi-
ence and success in this very context, writing of himself as Nigel:

He was paraded in front of parents at the clinic: Now Nigel, show the
parents how well you speak. Thank you. Now, if you work hard, your chil-
dren will be able to speak like Nigel. (Implied, if your child doesnt, then
you are to blame for not working hard enough.) This was grossly deceitful
for two reasons. One, that many of the parents had profoundly deaf chil-
dren, who had little hope of being able to speak like Nigel. And it was also
calculated to make Nigel feel better than those other deaf children, so that
he would make the springboard into the hearing world, and leave those
nasty traces of deafness behind. Thus Nigel began life with a carefully in-
stilled pattern of self-deceit. The parallels between this approach and the
capitalist Great Lie are remarkableboth say You can make it to the top
if you work hard. Anyone can. In reality, of course, only those with the re-
sources can do it, apart from a determined few who trample everybody be-
fore them. For the majority of people who have neither resources nor killer
instinct, there is nothing but the branding mark of failure. The fact that this
is not the only approach to life or to deafness is kept well hidden. (Ladd
1991, 89)
The Denial of Deafness 209

The hegemony of individualism triumphed, and the exception, be he


or she a Farrar or a Nigel, set the course for the education of genera-
tions of deaf students, creating educational and linguistic chaos. As Sir
Richard Paget wrote,6

It is curious that the vexed question of oralism . . . versus silent methods . . .


has never been put to the test. . . . [T]here has apparently been no attempt
to organize scientifically controlled experiments with comparable groups of
deaf children, so as to discover the respective merits and ultimate results of
the rival methods. Still less have any systematic attempts been made, except
in America, to combine the two methods. (Hodgson 1953, x)

So strong did faith in oralism become that even the profoundly deaf
spent virtually all their time at school learning to make sounds and read
lips. Whole classes would sit in a ring waiting for their turn to say a
word, waiting while the teacher spent time with each individual until sat-
isfied with his or her pronunciation. As they waited, they were forced to
sit on their hands so they could not sign and were even forbidden from
signing in the playground. They went behind the toilet block to talk.
Today, these pupilsfrom Britain, Australia, Canada, America, and
throughout Europejoke constantly about the bizarre absurdity of their
education as they mimic their school experiences, sitting on their
hands at international conferences and mouthing at one another or cov-
ering their mouths with a book while holding an object behind them and
expecting their deaf friends to listen to what the teacher was saying.
At school, those joked-about actions had been frustrating pantomimes
that constantly asserted their incompetence, their dumbness, as Bernal
and Toms recall, recollections that gel with those of their British contem-
poraries who were interviewed by Jennifer Harris (Harris 1995).

The Use of Signed English


But there were teachers, parents, academics, and of course, deaf people
themselves who were aware of the problems generated by the pure oral
system, especially for those diagnosed as severely or profoundly
deaf. As we indicated in chapter 2, the 1960s was a time when the ideo-
logical focus of virtually all Western countries shifted to human rights,
to the rights of minorities, including the emergence of movements
that were opposed to existing mainstream educational conventions.7
These alternative educational theories and associated alternative schools
210 a sociological history of discrimination

stimulated widespread questioning of existing educational practices in


the mainstream and in special education. In the 1960s, we saw an overt
resurgence of the combined method and, in particular, the resurgence
of debate about the use of signed versions of the dominant spoken lan-
guages. Although these moves away from pure oralism and toward the
acknowledgement of deaf peoples sensory and linguistic needs marked
the beginning of a new era of education, at least for some deaf people,
the deaf were still being defined and controlled by hearing experts.
The use of manual signs to accompany the teaching of articulation
was by no means new in Britain or elsewhere, nor had signing disap-
peared from all classrooms of deaf students. Although oralism was rec-
ommended by the Ministry of Education and strongly supported begin-
ning in the late-nineteenth century by the Association of Teachers of the
Deaf, actual practice was left up to the individual school. Through the
first half of the century, the British journal The Teacher of the Deaf, de-
spite its often fervently pure oralist editorial stance, was filled with argu-
ments for and against oralism. In 1949, E. L. Mundin, the headmaster of
the recently established oral secondary school for the deaf, Mary Hare
Grammar, summarized the then recent debates and concluded that one
could not necessarily assume pure oralism to be the best method for all
deaf pupils, stating I have . . . borne constantly in mind the significant
provision in the 1944 Education Act that every child shall receive an ed-
ucation suited to its age, ability and aptitude (Mundin 1949, 7).
In 1958 under the chairmanship of A. W. Kettlewell, a multidisci-
plinary committee to review problems associated with the education of
deaf children considered the place of manual communication in the
education of the deaf students and concluded in 1960 that members
are agreed that there is no one answer to the problem of teaching lan-
guage to all pupils (In the Interests of Deaf Children 1961, 23). The
Report of the Ministry of Education for 1960 indicated that the min-
istry does not interfere with the discretion of teachers to use whatever
methods they consider to be most helpful to a childs development
(Wilkinson 1961, 231). Referring to this document, the editor of
The Teacher of the Deaf wrote,

If by imposing a certain method on even a small minority of our deaf we are


creating backwardness, surely we must reform their education to help them
make the most of their natural gifts. . . . [W]e should not postpone any
longer some definite plan of action based on these conclusions. (231)
The Denial of Deafness 211

By 1966, in response to pressure from deaf associations, teachers,


parents associations such as the National Deaf Childrens Society, and
missioners to the deaf community, the government formed a committee
under Professor M. M. Lewis to consider the place, if any, of finger-
spelling and signing in the education of the deaf (Lewis 1968). The find-
ings of the inquiry indicated a widespread mix of methods throughout
Britain and indicated areas of controversy as well as the need for research
but did not recommend one system over another. Nevertheless, the com-
mittee heralded the start of intense debate over the role of signing in
many forms in the education of deaf students. On the whole, signing was
still seen as necessary in the education of only profoundly deaf and mul-
tiply handicapped children, but the possible widespread use of the com-
bined method in various forms was now high on the agenda and re-
mained the preferred option of the British Deaf Association. As far as the
educational administrators were concerned, however, the important con-
cern was that all deaf children were efficiently organized in schools. What
happened after they were placed in schools was of secondary concern.
Of particular interest was a resurgence of attention to the develop-
ment by hearing experts of signing systems that could accompany the use
and teaching of speech. In his preface to Hodgsons The Deaf and Their
Problems (Hodgson 1953), Sir Richard Paget wrote,

I am not an authority on the anatomy of the ear, and am not a teacher of the
deaf. All I do claim is some knowledge of the nature and probable origin of
human speech, and of its relation to the natural Sign languagesubjects
which up to the present time have been largely ignored, both by the author-
ities on speech and by specialists on the education of the totally deaf. (ix)

Pagets work on the origins of human speech focused on the links be-
tween the essentially pantomimic gestures of our jaws, lips and tongue,
etc. and what he regarded as the more primitive pantomimic hand ges-
tures in the origins and development of language. The gestures and not
the noises of speech were what he considered essential. He concluded
with respect to the education of deaf students,

To the now growing band of believers in the Gesture Theory of Human


Speech it is a matter of indifference whether we teach the deaf to express
words and names by gestures of their jaws, lips, tongue, etc., or by gestures
of their handsprovided always that the hand-gestures shall have exactly
the same meaning as the mouth-gestures. (Hodgson 1953, xii)
212 a sociological history of discrimination

Paget referred to a number of educationalists in Britain through the


1930s and 1940s involved in the development of sign languages to ac-
company speech and, among them, the headmaster of the Doncaster
School, E. S. Greenaway, who advocated simultaneous signing and
speaking. In response, Paget, along with a number of teachers of deaf
students and missioners to the deaf community, developed his New Sign
Language, or what was to become known in a revised form in the
1960s as the Paget-Gorman system. Pagets earlier system was adopted in
a few schools but was fervently opposed by the pure oralists, so much so,
that in 1948, an experiment approved by the Ministry of Education had
to be abandoned owing to the opposition from the leading centre of the
pure oral advocates (Hodgson 1953, xv).
Although British schools had tended to reject the use of methodologi-
cal sign systems in favor of using fingerspelling combined with natural
sign language, St. Marys School for the Deaf in Dublin, Ireland, pursued
until 1946 a pure manual method, using a system of Signed English
developed in the mid-nineteenth century.8 The Irish system of signed
English had been developed by Father John Burke, adapted from the
French methodological sign systems of Jamet in Caen, which had been
used in the Paris school. The Irish system of signed English combined fin-
gerspelling, signs from Irish Sign Language, initialized methodic signs,
and grammatical signs used as linguistic markers. Although it disap-
peared from the schools in 1946, it was almost identical in design and
purpose to the signed form of English referred to as Seeing Essential En-
glish (SEE), which was developed in America twenty years later.
However, the 1960s provided a very different environment than had
existed twenty years earlier for experiments such as those of Paget and
for the revival of forms of signed English in general. Discussions of alter-
natives were also stimulated by reports from British delegates who had
attended international conferences, for example, the Gallaudet Confer-
ence of 1963. The keynote speaker at the 1963 conference declared:
The contribution of manual forms of communication to academic and
social efficiency, the unique structural features of the language of signs
and the association of the manual alphabet with the teaching of speech
are of increasing interest (Brill 1984, 16465).
Schools began to experiment with the Paget-Gorman system, the
Rochester Method that used one-handed fingerspelling and articulation,
and the system of manually Cued Speech developed by R. Orin Cor-
nett of Gallaudet College.9 More widespread interest was shown in the
The Denial of Deafness 213

development of forms of signed English to be used in conjunction with


the teaching of spoken and written English. In 1973, the head of the
Yorkshire School for the Deaf, F. Hockenhull, was quoted as saying, It
cannot be stressed too much that those arts which deaf children develop
so easily are of limited use educationally unless they are refined by reason
and systematically taught (Woodford 1973, 198). The statement could
have been made by 1Epe two hundred years earlier. Research into the
relative performance of oral and signing deaf children by Conrad (1979)
reinforced the growing interest in the use of signing and also placed on
the agenda, for the first time, the possible importance of the use of British
Sign Language, as distinct from signed representations of English, in the
education of deaf people.10
In the early 1960s, an American teacher, David Anthony, developed
a manual system to represent written English grammatically so his deaf
students could learn English more easily (Seeing Essential English [SEE
1]). This system encouraged other teachers to develop codes for the man-
ual representation of English, resulting in variations of manually coded
English developing out of SEE 1.11 Three systems in particular were
developed in this period: Anthonys Seeing Essential English (Anthony
1973), known as SEE 1; Wamplers Linguistics of Visual English
(Wampler 1973), known as LOVE; and Gustason and her colleagues
Signing Exact English (Gustason 1973), known as SEE 2 and used quite
widely in deaf education. These systems involved the development of
many new signs. In general they invent new signs, modify existing signs,
and create signs for affixes, word endings, plurality and articles (Evans
1982, 75). These signing systems had a big influence on the way signing
was used in all institutions for the education of deaf people, including
Gallaudet University, where a form using mainly American Sign Lan-
guage signs but in English word order was developed for educating deaf
children and was known simply as Signed English or SE (see Bornstein
1973).
Throughout the world, similar systems were developed, for example,
early in EuropeSigned Swedish, Signed Danish, Signed Germanand
later in countries throughout AsiaSigned Indonesian (SIBI) (see Bran-
son and Miller 1998a) and Signed Thai (see Santitrakool 1979). In
Britain, these international moves stimulated the development of various
signed English forms, with the Royal National Institute for the Deaf
deciding in 1982 to concentrate their resources on the development of
Signed English.
214 a sociological history of discrimination

Signed English as Symbolic Violence


[W]ith the formal introduction of signed English in 1973 (despite opposi-
tion from the Deaf community), the control of language moved to the
hearing teachers in the classroom. The older Deaf were not there to cor-
rect the signing of the young and as the teachers didnt really know the
new language either, communication broke down. (Bernal and Toms 1996,
60)

The development of signed forms of English reinforced the control of


deaf people by means of linguistic and cultural deprivation. The sym-
bolic violence of signed English, and indeed of signed forms of any
dominant spoken language, were based on two familiar assumptions:
first, the assumed superiority of English as a language for the transmis-
sion of knowledge and, second, the assumption that deaf people needed
to be assimilated as much as possible into the hearing world by the use of
the majority language. The development of signed forms of English not
only devalued native sign languages but also sought to assimilate deaf
people into the majority language and majority culture as overtly defi-
cient participants. The process is precisely what Bourdieu described
when he wrote that the educational system conceals, by an apparently
neutral attitude, the fact that it fills this function (Bourdieu 1977a,
488), namely, the transmission of power and privilege.
The development of signed English served to reinforce the linguistic
deprivation of deaf people and to represent their sensory difference as
linguistic lack. Both oralism and signed forms of English give only partial
access to language. Their use denies access to the richness and complexi-
ties of language that are essential for effective cultural expression and
participation and, of course, for even moderate educational success.12 In
addition, hearing educators, the experts in signed English, had to act as
mediators between the deaf and hearing worlds, thus, increasing the
hearing educators control.

The Resurgence of the Combined


Method as Total Communication
Associated with the development of signed forms of English was the
resurgence of forms of the combined method. Like signed English forms,
Total Communication emerged or, rather, reemerged in America in the
The Denial of Deafness 215

late 1960s as a philosophical approach to teaching deaf children that


took many varied forms in practice. It was a philosophy open to myriad
strategic interpretations by teachers. Woodward wrote in 1973,

One recent development in deaf education is total communication, but


there are almost as many definitions of total communication as there are
proponents. . . . Whatever the definition of total communication, one aspect
of total communication that is stressed by most proponents is the creation
and use of a visual language system that closely parallels English, generally
as closely as possible. (Woodward 1973, 1)

As a philosophy, Total Communication referred to an approach that


attempts to ensure the right of the deaf child to have access to any and
all needed communication modalities (Hicks, quoted in Evans and
Hicks 1988, 567). In this spirit, the British Deaf Association supported
the use of Total Communication in schools after the Education Act of
1981, just as they had supported the combined method in 1890 at the
urging of Francis Maginn (see chapter 7). Although the efforts in some
situations to realize the philosophy of Total Communication involved
the development of bilingual situations using various expressions of En-
glish and natural sign language, these efforts usually involved and, indeed,
still involve the use of manually supported English, with teachers sign-
ing at the same time they speak, which results in very confusing visual
messages.13
Today, forms of Total Communication dominate the education of the
deaf in Britain. Wendy Lynas (1994) cites research indicating that, in
1993, just over half the services offered in the 108 Local Education
Authorities of England offered an oral-aural plus Total Communication
approach and a further 30 percent offered an oral-aural plus Total
Communication plus bilingual approach. A survey of British schools and
units by I. King Jordan in 19801981 (Jordan 1982) revealed a ratio of
oral programs to Total Communication programs in primary education
of 60 percent to 40 percent and, in secondary education, of 65 percent to
35 percent. A repeat study by Dennis Child (Child 1991) in all forty
schools for the deaf in the United Kingdom in 1989, though not includ-
ing mainstream units, revealed ratios of oral programs to Total Commu-
nication programs of 30 percent to 70 percent at the primary level and of
45 percent to 65 percent at the secondary level. A survey of secondary
units by Powers (Powers 1990) revealed that one-third were using some
216 a sociological history of discrimination

manual communication whereas nearly two-thirds of them used sign-


supported English. These programs represent potentially extremely con-
fusing linguistic environments.
Although the teachers of the late 1960s and of the 1970s and 1980s saw
themselves as great innovators in the education of deaf people, they were,
in fact, reinventing the wheel. As we have seen from the discussion in the
previous chapter about teaching methods in British schools during the
nineteenth century, both the philosophy and practice of Total Communi-
cation had been around for a long time even then. In the light of the far
more recent strategic interpretation of Total Communication to mean the
simultaneous use of speech and signed English, Scotts comments, made a
century earlier, about the madness in such a method bear quoting again:

We have heard of teachers who would sign through a lesson, giving sign for
word in regular succession, in the belief that each sign they made was of
equal importance and would necessarily give the idea. We could hardly sup-
pose that there could have been teachers with such madness in their
methods. (Scott 1870, 13031)

The madness was indeed back, but in a new ideological environment.


This new environment was intensely professionalized, one in which the
student was thoroughly individuated and in which segregation was giv-
ing way to integration. Although the newly forged Total Communication
approach recognized Deaf communities and their sign languages, at least
in theory, the predominant purpose was the integration of deaf individu-
als into the hearing society as individuals.
The revolutionary educational movements of the 1960s and 1970s
were overtly individualistic, stressing the rights and creativity of the indi-
vidual in opposition to the faceless rationality of the bureaucratically
regulated system. This individualistic orientation to education affected
the education of deaf students through moves to deinstitutionalize spe-
cial education. In Britain, this individuation reached its ultimate expres-
sion at the beginning of the 1980s:

The Report of the Committee of Enquiry into the Education of Handi-


capped Children and Young People, issued in 1978, resulted in the enact-
ment of the Education Act of 1981. This legislation replaced the existing
categories of handicapped individuals, including those who are deaf and
partially hearing, with the concept of special education provision based on
the special educational needs of each child. (Lysons 1987, 3023)
The Denial of Deafness 217

These moves toward individuation of the disabled found particular


expression in the apparently antidiscriminatory practice of what is
called, in its various cultural contexts, integration, inclusion, or
mainstreaming.

Mainstreaming and the Education of Deaf Students


In chapter 2, we examined how policies of normalization through
deinstitutionalization, using mainstreaming as a potent and prominent
example, have been pursued in a thoroughly hegemonic way. In other
words, the existing ideologies of normality have dominated the pro-
cess of reform, the assumption being that the formerly segregated would
adapt to the normal world, allowing the normal world to go about its
business as before but now infused with a feeling of benevolence at hav-
ing allowed the disabled a pathway to assimilate into the normal soci-
ety. Mainstreaming was seen to be, on the whole, a discriminatory prac-
tice. Its orientation toward normalizing formerly segregated students
demanded their assimilation into the educational and cultural environ-
ment and demanded of them as much as of the other students: that they
have what it does not give . . . linguistic and cultural competence (Bour-
dieu 1977a, 494).
The education of deaf students in mainstream schools is not new.14
From the 1870s in Britain, in response to the 1870 Education Act, spe-
cial classes for deaf children were established under the coordination of
William Stainer in public elementary schools, especially in London day
schools. Day schools for deaf children were also established through-
out the country in preference to the traditional residential schools. But
by the end of the nineteenth century, special classes in mainstream
schools were virtually abandoned in favor of day schools. As the clinical
approach asserted itself in the period after the Second World War and
the concept of partial hearing replaced the concept of deafness, the
deaf school was seen as inappropriate for the partially hearing. Thus
in 1947, the first partially hearing units were opened in four London
primary schools. By 1987, approximately four hundred partially hear-
ing units had been established in England (Lysons 1987, 302). To serve
these units, a system was organized wherein peripatetic teachers toured
the schools, attending to the special needs of deaf students. But, as indi-
cated above, the reclassification of some deaf people as partially hear-
ing served two related ideological purposes: (1) it classified as partially
218 a sociological history of discrimination

normal, as not being disabled, those who could respond to sound


and thus make use of new technologies, which therefore, placed them at
least partially in the mainstream; and (2) at the same time, it reinforced
the disabled status of those who were not partially normal, the pro-
foundly deaf. Profoundly deaf students remained institutionalized and
were regarded as virtually uneducable. The ideology of institutionaliza-
tion was not challenged.
But by the 1980s, the general move toward deinstitutionalization and
the formal development of mainstreaming programs was resulting in the
mainstreaming not only of partially hearing students in units but also
of a wider range of deaf students. It was also resulting in the subsequent
closure of many segregated schools for the deaf.15 These moves involved
a fundamental ideological shift, at least at the level of policy. As indicated
in chapter 2, mainstreaming was challenging the very categorization of
people as disabled, demanding the acknowledgement and even cele-
bration of human diversity as well as asking that this diversity be nour-
ished, not through discriminatory institutionalization, but by providing
facilities to accommodate individually based and not syndrome-based
difference. In Britain, the 1985 Education Act established a national cur-
riculum for all, challenging the whole basis of special education.16 In
line with the radical educational movements of the 1960s and 1970s, the
civil rights movements, and the international battles for human rights,
mainstreaming brought to the fore the need to recognize the basic ide-
ologies of equality and the rights of the individual. The individuation of
deafness was, in fact, being reinforced in a new way.
Research into the integration of deaf students into mainstream class-
rooms through the 1980s indicated how counterproductive and isolating
the integration of the deaf child could be.17 It was obvious that sitting
in a normal classroom could be the reverse of integration while separate
educational provision had always aimed at eventual full participation
in the hearing world (McLoughlin 1987, 85). The mainstreaming pro-
grams were assimilationist in orientation, expecting the individual deaf
child to adjust linguistically and even in sensory terms to the environ-
ment of the mainstream school. Rather than achieving assimilation,
mainstreaming for the deaf student often resulted in isolation. Research
by Gregory and Bishop (1989) revealed that mainstream teachers did not
know how to deal with deaf students and that teachers and hearing
students tended not to regard the deaf students as part of the normal
class or as normal members of the student body. Many teachers see
The Denial of Deafness 219

the National Curriculum, imposed through the Education Reform Act of


1989, as compounding these problems rather than as opening up the cur-
riculum to all students.18
The overt pursuit of mainstreaming as public policy occurred at the
same time as consciousness of the special linguistic needs of deaf students
was being raised and as these linguistic needs were being associated with
the need for segregated educational environments. The overt move to
deinstitutionalize education generated, particularly among deaf people
themselves, a demand to return to segregated signing schools. The inte-
gration of deaf students was interpreted as the latest assault on the lan-
guages and potential sense of community of Deaf people and as the ulti-
mate strategy to divide and rule:

My experience of mainstreaming in England . . . leads me to believe that it


is the most dangerous move yet against the early development of a deaf per-
sons character, self-confidence and basic sense of identity. Forceful clumsy
attempts to mainstream not only deny the facts about being deaf but de-
stroy much that deaf people and their friends have worked so hard to cre-
ate, and may in the last resort be seen as genocidal. (Ladd 1991, 88)

The failure of mainstreaming for deaf people is seen to stem basically


from the fact that they are mainstreamed in terms of a medical model of
deafness. Despite the overt opposition to the use of clinically based as-
sessments and, thus, to the use of medical models of disability, even
the most radical integrationists continue to define deafness as a pathol-
ogy, as a lack rather than as a cultural difference based in a linguistic dif-
ference. Given the overriding ideals of the mainstreaming movement, the
mainstreaming of deaf students is a blatant contradiction.
Mainstreaming involves the attempted assimilation of minority groups
into the linguistic and cultural environment of the mainstream edu-
cational system. Mainstreaming assumes either implicitly or explicitly
that language immersion in the dominant language will generate linguis-
tic competence. These assumptions fly in the face of research findings
that consistently demonstrate, as indicated above, that, for those whose
first language is a minority language, developing linguistic competence
in the dominant language demands a bilingual environment (see Luetke-
Stahlman 1986; Cummins 1984). In the case of deaf people, for whom
access to the dominant language can never be as complete as for other
students who use a minority language, the inappropriateness of main-
streaming is particularly marked.
220 a sociological history of discrimination

The inappropriateness of mainstreaming is acknowledged both by


oralists and by supporters of bilingual approaches using natural sign lan-
guage and the dominant spoken language. The prospectus of the Mary
Hare Grammar School pursues as pure oralist a program as one will find
anywhere in Britain but, at the same time, stresses the need for a segre-
gated educational environment.

Bilingualism in Deaf Education


Since Conrad published The Deaf School Child (Conrad 1979), research
into the effect of different linguistic environments on the education of
deaf students has continued to show that the acquisition of sign language
as a first language by deaf children, whether they come from Deaf or
hearing families, is basic to the effective acquisition of a second language
and to educational success.19 Also particularly important in stimulating
interest to develop bilingual programs was the 1989 publication, Un-
locking the Curriculum (Johnson, Liddell, and Erting 1989). Unlocking
the Curriculum laid blame for poor achievement among deaf students,
not at the door of oralism, but at the door of Total Communication,
claiming that students needed as the language of instruction, not Signed
English used in conjunction with speech, but American Sign Language.
In 1996, the British Deaf Association (BDA) stated in its education
policy that Deaf people have the right to a quality education through-
out their lives, which accepts their linguistic cultural and social identity,
which builds positive self esteem and which sets no limits to their learn-
ing. The organization added, the BDA believes that bilingualism rep-
resents the most appropriate form of education for the majority of Deaf
students. The bilingual mode of education requires at least partial seg-
regation. The segregation involved is radically different from the reme-
dial and special educational practices still associated with the segre-
gation of deaf students. The use of native sign language as a medium of
instruction for deaf people around the world is slowly developing and is
based on a substantial amount of theoretical and empirical evidence. On
the basis of this research and theory, bilingual programs are being estab-
lished, unlike the move into oralism that could never claim theoretical
and empirical support (Ewoldt 1979) but, instead, rested on an ideology
that speech and hearing were normal and deafness was pathological.
This research on sign language is also supported by many Deaf people
as they reflect on their own linguistic progress and by hearing parents of
The Denial of Deafness 221

deaf children (Fletcher 1991; Robinson 1991).20 These people seek alter-
natives to mainstreaming, alternatives that attempt to move beyond the
forces of assimilation and normalization to provide educational environ-
ments for deaf students that celebrate their difference rather than devalue
it as a lack.
What then of the current and potential shape of Deaf education?
Many Deaf people argue for a segregated education through sign lan-
guage, a bilingual, segregated system.21 For example, while the British
Deaf Association campaigned with disability rights groups in the early
1990s, contributing to the Disability Discrimination Act of 1995, the
National Union of the Deaf campaigned strongly against the integra-
tionist policies of the Department of Education and Science. The edu-
cational potential of the segregated school for deaf students lies in its
potential to provide, assuming it uses a comprehensive primary and sec-
ondary curriculum, the sort of education for deaf students that all-girls
schools provide for girls.22 Deaf people seek an environment in which
they are not subjected to the symbolic violence of a hearing culture, in
which they are not disabled, and where they are not driven to struggle
to be like hearing people. Above all, they seek an environment where
they can relax into their deafness; can communicate effectively by means
of a medium through which they understand everything, not snippets
plucked from a distorted electronic stream of sound; and can be free to
explore additional communicative strategies on their terms. Their focus
on the potential of bilingualism parallels and responds to drives by other
linguistic minorities to secure the right to be educated through the
medium of their first languages.
Because access through the family to the appropriate native sign lan-
guage as a first language is available only to a minority of deaf people,
a truly bilingual education for deaf students requires that natural sign
language be made available as a first language for all deaf children from
birth. This condition is the case, for example, in Sweden and Denmark
where professional instruction in Swedish and Danish Sign Language re-
spectively is provided for all parents of deaf children as soon as deafness
has been diagnosed, so a coherent linguistic environment is available to
the child from the start of her or his linguistic development.
Many Deaf communities throughout the world seek the sort of social
justice and educational innovation found, at least in terms of formal pol-
icy, in countries such as Sweden, where regulations were passed by par-
liament in 1981 guaranteeing the right of all Deaf people to be educated
222 a sociological history of discrimination

with the national sign language as their first language and as the medium
for the acquisition of the national spoken and written language, Swedish.
Thus, Ahlgren wrote in 1990,

In Swedish schools for the deaf, Swedish Sign Language is officially the lan-
guage of instruction in all subjects including Swedish. According to the offi-
cial curriculum Swedish Sign Language is regarded the first language for the
deaf pupils and written Swedish is their secondary language. . . . (Ahlgren
1990, 91, italics added)

But she added,

The real picture of teaching in the deaf-schools is, however, not as bright
as in the curriculum. We are in fact in the middle of a process where the
majority of the teachers has come to accept Swedish Sign Language as a true
language and therefore beneficial to the students but where this same ma-
jority still has a long way to go before they know sign language well enough
to be sufficiently good teachers. (91, emphasis added)

The gap between policy and practice remains, and even if it is narrowing
after more than a decade under progressive legislation, the struggle for
the recognition of the native sign languageeven among the teachers of
deaf studentsis still far from won.
The same is true of bilingual programs in Britain. The School for the
Deaf in Derby, England, is committed to the development of a bilingual
school with British Sign Language (BSL) as the language of instruction.
The local Deaf community is involved with the pupils in the teaching
process and in extracurricular activities. As in the Swedish case, the need
for a truly bilingual education is recognized, but the acquisition by hearing
teachers and administrators of the fluent linguistic skills that are required
takes time. Robert C. Johnson has recently reported that in America,

The percentage of deaf students reportedly taught through Signs Without


Voice (a term used by Gallaudet researchers to indicate ASL), has risen
during the last decade from less than half of one percent (19891990) to
4 percent (19961997), the latter percentage representing a small but sig-
nificant number of students (roughly 1,870). Insufficient data are available
to determine whether these students are truly being taught in ASL-English
bilingual programs. . . . (Johnson 1999, 4)

An air of threatening symbolic violence still permeates the relation-


ships between hearing and Deaf people as even those teachers who rec-
ognize the need for instruction through signing debate to what extent it
The Denial of Deafness 223

should be used and what form of signing is appropriate. Signed forms of


dominant written languages are often still taught to trainee teachers, and
systems labeled bilingual often consist of a haphazard mixture of En-
glish, BSL, Signed English, and sign-supported English.23
Opposition to bilingual education from oralists, or aural-oralists as
they now call themselves in an age of cochlear implants, often focuses
on research claiming to show that children taught through aural-oral
approaches achieve higher results than those taught through bilingual
methods or Total Communication. A recent comprehensive review of
the research literature (Powers, Gregory, and Thoutenhoofd 1999) has
shown that despite a significant amount of research there has been no
major study in the UK since that of Conrad (1979) and that there is
no substantive evidence to demonstrate any overall improvement in the
education of deaf pupils since Conrads study (1). Powers, Gregory, and
Thoutenhoofd show that the measurement of language skills has fo-
cused almost exclusively on spoken language ability, sometimes assessed
in the written form and that there is almost no information on the sign
competence of deaf children (3). Powers et al. also point to the depen-
dence of studies on unrepresentative samples and their failure to account
for the relevant variables involved.
Aural-oralist opposition to bilingualism continues to focus on the
needs of the individual and to see the Deaf communitys focus on the use
of natural sign language in education as a threat to individual achieve-
ment and eventual assimilation into the hearing world. Lynass extremely
selective review of research on communication options in deaf education
is a case in point (Lynas 1994). She concludes, without reference to any
research, that if deaf children are offered the prospect of talking, they
are not thereby precluded from acquiring sign language at a later stage,
but if signing is chosen for them they are unlikely ever to be able to talk
(Lynas 1994, 150). Research and experience in at least Sweden and Den-
mark show quite the opposite, with students using the national sign lan-
guage as their first language and as the language of instruction and effec-
tively accessing spoken languages as a second language through speech
therapy and lipreading.
The problem with most research into the various communicative
options in the education of deaf students is that these options are re-
garded simply as teaching methods. The issue of language is ignored or
misunderstood. Bilingualism in deaf education focuses on the linguistic
development of deaf children in their first and secondeven third and
fourthlanguages. The central claim, supported by ample research, is
224 a sociological history of discrimination

simply that the effective acquisition and educational use of a first lan-
guage promotes not only the acquisition of knowledge but also the ac-
quisition of other languages, even spoken languages.
What we have been concerned with showing here is that the barri-
erscultural, educational, and politicalplaced in the way of deaf peo-
ple are often subtle, placed there subconsciously as hearing people oper-
ate in terms that are assumed to be governed by rationality or common
sense, not by prejudice. These hearing people do not see the symbolic vi-
olence that their evaluations of language, behavior, and appearance per-
petrate on those who are judged to be marginal. They do not realize that
theythose who conform to the desired behavioral, physical, and cul-
tural standards of the societyare the agents who marginalize and dis-
able through their disposition toward others. Those who promote the
integration of the so-called disabled, including deaf people, into main-
stream education and who see the segregated environment as restricting
access to educational resources appeal to a common sense that is gov-
erned by an ideological commitment to egalitarianism, individualism,
liberty, and social justice as well as to dispositions toward normality.
Thus, hearing parents seize on integration and oralism as the way to at-
tain acceptability for their deaf child and for themselves. Both integra-
tion and oralism have received particular ideological support from the
latest of sciences technological and surgical miracles. The assump-
tions that science can overcome the assumed pathology of deafness
and that oral education is both viable and desirable have intensified since
the development of the cochlear implant, which claims to provide hear-
ing for those who do not find hearing aids useful. The cochlear implant
claims to cure deafness in the profoundly deaf, to make deaf people hear.
It is the bionic ear.

The Cochlear Implant: The Latest of Sciences Miracles


Harlan Lane writes,
The connections among measurement practices, special education, and ear
surgery are not only intellectual and abstract, they are also administrative
and operational . . . one more reflection of the intimate relations in audism
between measurement, education and medicine. . . .
The cochlear implant teams . . . authorized to conduct surgery generally
consist of a surgeon, several audiologists and speech/language pathologists,
and special educators. (Lane 1992, 204)
The Denial of Deafness 225

Cochlear implantation is a surgical procedure, lasting about three and a half


hours under general anaesthesia, and it requires hospitalization for two to
four days. A broad crescent-shaped incision is made behind the operated
ear, and the skin flap is elevated. A piece of temporalis muscle is removed. A
depression is drilled in the skull and reamed to make a seat for the internal
electrical coil of the cochlear implant. A section of the mastoid bone is re-
moved to expose the middle ear cavity. Further drilling exposes the mem-
brane of the round window on the inner ear. Observing the procedure under
a microscope, the surgeon pierces the membrane. A wire about 25 millime-
ters long is pushed through the opening. Sometimes the way is blocked by
abnormal bone growth in the inner ear; the surgeon will generally drill
through this but may have to settle in the end for only partial insertion of the
wire. The wire seeks its own path as it moves around and up the coiled inner
ear, shaped like a snail and called the cochlea, from the Latin for snail.
The exquisitely detailed microstructure of the inner ear is often ripped apart
as the electrode weaves its way, crushing cells and perforating membranes;
if there was any residual hearing in the ear, it is almost certainly destroyed.
The auditory nerve itself is unlikely to be damaged, however, and the im-
plant stimulates the auditory nerve directly. The internal coil is then sutured
into place. Finally the skin is sewn back over the coil. (Lane 1992, 34)

Lanes description is meant to draw attention to the invasive and danger-


ous nature of the implant. Although the cochlear implant is simply the
latest in a long line of technological innovations that are designed to
make deaf people hear, its surgical nature links it as much to the surgical
experiments of Itard and Cooper nearly two hundred years ago as to the
work of Bell a century later. The apparent successes prove little. The chil-
dren paraded across our television screens and at conferences of teachers
in deaf education have been given intense individual therapy that has al-
ready been shown to yield results even without hearing aids let alone the
implant. Farrar was the case in point.
In 1991, on the basis of a review of 229 publications on cochlear im-
plants, the Scottish educator George Montgomery concluded that the
claims made by publicists for cochlear implants are at best dubious and
that the effect of the implant was limited, pointing out that regular hear-
ing aids might well have produced the same results. He also points to the
intense instruction given to implanted children in contrast to the atten-
tion received by ordinary deaf children (Montgomery 1991). A review
of the debates about cochlear implants in the United States by Agnes
Tellings in 1996 reached similar conclusions (Tellings 1996).
226 a sociological history of discrimination

Reviewing the arguments for and against the implantation of children,


Tellings points to the limited success of the implant related to hearing
and producing speech but claims that no educational or medical grounds
for rejecting the use of implants exist as long as implanted children are
given the opportunity to learn both through oral instruction and through
manual instruction (Tellings, 27). She dismisses ethical objections to
the implant associated with a childs membership in the Deaf community
unless one adheres to a strict cultural-linguistic model in which being
deaf is completely comparable to being Turkish or being English (29).
The linguistic issues are misunderstood and misrepresented by Tellings.
As we will show in the next chapter, the need for a fully accessible first
language as the language of instruction in the early years of schooling
has been clearly established. The fact that a natural sign language is the
only language to which a deaf child, with or without an implant, has un-
problematic access means that the use of a natural sign language as the
language of instruction, particularly in early schooling, is desirable for all
deaf children, just as children with Turkish as a first language should be
educated during their early years in Turkish.
The cochlear implant has captured the imagination of the public, the
attention of the media, and the copious finances of governments and pri-
vate enterprise as the scientific miracle of the 1980s and 1990s. As Har-
lan Lanes research into the results of implants has shown (Lane 1992,
203 ff.; Lane, Hoffmeister, and Bahan 1996, 386 ff.), the surgery can be
dangerous, and the results are far from miraculous. Serious adverse re-
sults, including damage to facial nerves causing disfigurement, have been
reported for as many as one child in six in America (Lane 1992, 217).
For children, further surgery is almost inevitable and will almost cer-
tainly be more dangerous than the original operation. Implant support-
ers are distributing massive propaganda associated with the implant,
which is isolating and alienating the burgeoning Deaf community from
the wider community, and these supporters are working as fervently as
Bell and others ever did to destroy the concept and the reality of a Deaf
community.
But the response of parents is overwhelming. General practitioners
and audiologists are referring children for implants as though the mira-
cle was guaranteed and uncomplicated. As one walks through the Royal
Throat, Nose and Ear Hospital on Grays Inn Road, London, to the
stairs leading to the library of the Royal National Institute for Deaf Peo-
ple in the Institute of Laryngology and Otology, a department of Univer-
The Denial of Deafness 227

sity College, London, handwritten signs with arrows proclaim cochlear


implants this way.
Scientism remains the dominant ideology, the handmaiden of the
economy and the polity, despite its need to counteract moves toward de-
veloping any sense of community that threatens the central ideology of
individualism and, thus, the relationship of production and consump-
tion. Deafness is firmly categorized as both a disabling condition and a
condition in need of medical treatment, even despite successful moves by
the Deaf community to gain recognition of themselves as a subcultural
and linguistic community. The incongruity reveals the contradictory na-
ture of the democratic capitalist society. Thus, in Australia in 1991, the
governments language policy recognized Auslan (Australian Sign Lan-
guage) as the language of the Deaf community and yet, at the same time,
poured copious funding into the development of the Australian Nucleus-
22 implant, which has been used worldwide and has given particular
publicity to implants in children.
But whatever the technology involved, and the cochlear implant is but
the latest in a long line, the issue is access to language, the effect of peda-
gogies and technologies on the development of linguistic competence.
Support for the implant is based on the assumption that a little hearing is
better than none at all, which itself is based on another set of assump-
tions that hearing and speech are the only natural form of communi-
cation and, therefore, that oralism is the only viable mode of commu-
nication for the society as a whole, the mode to which all members of
society should and must adjust.
In a 1997 Fox News program dealing with the debate over cochlear
implants, Mario Svirsky of Indiana University is quoted as saying, We
find that after implantation, they [children who are implanted early] start
acquiring language at a faster rate. In this instance, language is iden-
tified solely with spoken language. The speed at which deaf children ac-
quire sign language is not considered.
With respect to the first assumption that a little hearing is better than
none at all, studies show that the transition from education in sign to
oral education of deaf students was accompanied by deterioration in the
performance of deaf students.24 Oralism created an educational lack to
accompany the assumed physical lack. The faith of the hearing world
in technology leads to the assumption that once some hearing has been
stimulated, the deaf person can be expected to participate effectively in
the hearing world.
228 a sociological history of discrimination

The Cochlear Implant and the New Oralism


As governments have begun to recognize the linguistic identities and
needs of Deaf communities throughout the world and have begun to sup-
port programs for bilingual education of Deaf people, a resurgence of
pure oralism has occurred, which is linked to the cochlear implant. Spe-
cial programs have been developed to receive and train newly implanted
children and to train parents to provide therapy regularly in the home.

There is no evidence that these oralist practices at home, at school, and in


the clinic are effective, any more than there was evidence of their effective-
ness in the era before they were abandoned in favour of total communica-
tion. They are not undertaken because they are of proven value. They are
sought by the implant teams because childhood implantation and oral edu-
cation are expressions of the same underlying system of values. (Lane 1992,
205)

The medicalization of the deaf person continues to individualize and


alienate, cutting the deaf child off from potential contact with the Deaf
community and with access to the world through sign languages. At no
time in our history has there been more overt stress on the miraculous
abilities of science to cure deafness. The new performers at conferences
of teachers of deaf students are like the performers of past centuries, deaf
people who speak for the entertainment of the audience, but now, the
miracle involves not only speaking but also hearing. Indeed, the focus
now is on hearing. The miracle word is not ephphatha, be opened,
(Mark 7:34 Authorized [King James] Version) but, rather, cochlear im-
plant, a surgical not mystical opening of the ear. The miracle worker is
not the Son of God but the scientist. Television programs feature promi-
nent sportsmen and others whose children have received the miraculous
bionic ear, and interviewers pit members of the Deaf community in
debate against university professors, manipulating the process to misrep-
resent Deaf points of view as reactionary, irrational, and based in igno-
rance of the scientific facts. Demonstrating classic prejudice in assuming
deafness to be an individuated condition requiring individual treatment,
interviewers repeatedly fail even to try to understand the nature of the
Deaf community and imply that deaf people want to take deaf children
away from their hearing families. The fact that many of the most fervent
Deaf activists state quite clearly that speech therapy, lipreading instruc-
tion, and hearing aids should be available to Deaf people who want to
The Denial of Deafness 229

access these services is ignored. Little has changed since the turn of the
century when teachers began to advise parents not to let their children
have any contact with the Deaf community for fear that this contact
would hamper the normalization process. As we pointed out in previous
chapters, the success stories of implanted childrens hearing and speaking
are not different or more miraculous than was Abraham Farrars story
120 years ago because they, like Farrar, receive individualized and ex-
tremely intensive therapy.
Through the last five chapters, we have explored the history of the
cultural construction of deaf people as disabled in the British context.
Although particular individuals have emerged at times to exert a strong
influence on the shape of deaf education and the social lives of deaf peo-
ple, we have been concerned with demonstrating that these individuals
have not been the prime movers of history. Biography, as C. Wright Mills
stressed, is not enough. It must be combined with an historical under-
standing of the social environments within which those individuals lived.
The individuals who have been featured here, from Wallis and Defoe
through to the Ewings and Paddy Ladd, interpreted the educational
process and strategically oriented themselves toward their tasks as teach-
ers, missioners, therapists, pupils, parents, or administrators through
lenses that were shaped by the cultural environments in which they lived.
Therefore, to understand the history of the cultural construction of deaf
people as disabled in Britain, we have had to place the events of that
history in their wider ideological and cultural contexts, from the new
philosophy of the seventeenth century through to the widespread deinsti-
tutionalization that began in the 1980s.
As we begin to consider the current environment, in which the ideo-
logical forces of multiculturalism and ethnicity dominate the contempo-
rary construction of identity in the West, we must move onto the inter-
national stage. Today, a heightened consciousness of ethnic identity both
challenges and transforms identities that are based in nationalism. Deaf
communities in the West and, to some extent, beyond the West are claim-
ing a Deaf ethnicity that is based in the assertion of their linguistic
human rights as linguistic minorities with minority subcultures.25 In re-
viewing these achievements, particularly the victories associated with the
achievement of linguistic human rights, we reveal how easily victories, at
the same time, can be the basis for further oppression as those who can
now celebrate their difference become the unwitting agents in the op-
pression of others.
230 a sociological history of discrimination

Notes
1. See Lowe (1991) for the effect of the Ewings and the 1958 Congress on the
education of deaf people in Germany.
2. Dutch educationalist who promoted oralism. For his views on language
and education, see Van Uden (1986). For a response to Van Udens argument, see
Stokoe (1991).
3. The Princess Elizabeth Junior School (PEJS) was set up with money do-
nated by the public after radio and newsreel advertisements about the value of an
oral education. The high point of the advertisements was a deaf child saying the
word mummy for the first time.
4. A Farrar School for the Deaf was established in Sydney in recognition of
his example.
5. For example, the Australian Pierre Gorman, who gained a doctorate from
Cambridge University, was for a time the librarian at the Royal National Insti-
tute for the Deaf in London and developed a signing system with Sir Richard
Paget for teaching Englishthe Paget-Gorman System.
6. Sir Richard Arthur Surtees Paget (18691955), a barrister who was edu-
cated at Eton and Magdalen College, Oxford, came from wealthy landed gentry
and was called to the bar in 1895. A distinguished lawyer, he was secretary to
many legal commissions including the Court of Arbitration, under the Metropol-
itan Water Act and the Patent Law Committee. A lover of music and art, he pub-
lished several songs. His academic work focused on linguistics and human
speech. He published papers in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, the British
Association, and the Encyclopaedia Britannica on the nature and artificial pro-
duction of speech. His book Human Speech was published in 1932. He was in-
terested in the production of artificial signing systems for the teaching of deaf
students and, to this end, developed his New Sign Language with the Australian
Pierre Gorman, known as the Paget-Gorman system. In 1953, he was president
of the British Deaf and Dumb Association.
7. In the 1960s, the deaf teacher of deaf students, Boyce Williams, presented
a list of ancillary rights for deaf people to be considered in relation to the Uni-
versal Declaration of Human Rights (Williams 1985).
8. See Griffey (1997) and Green (1997, 7071), and for descriptions of the
Dublin schools in the mid-nineteenth century, see the appendix to Wilde (1853)
and An Old Friend of the Deaf and Dumb (1885).
9. The Aberdeen School for the Deaf in Scotland was still using the Paget-
Gorman system in 1998 when it closed (British Deaf News, June 1998). The
Rochester Method developed in the late-nineteenth century, when a teacher at
the Rochester School for the Deaf in New York, Zenos Westervelt, proposed the
use of fi ngerspelling, but only in conjunction with speech and in the correct
grammatical word order of English (Evans 1982, 8). This kind of simultane-
ous communication became known as the Rochester Method. Paul and Jack-
The Denial of Deafness 231

son note that, in the United States, the Rochester Method was a commonly used
system in the 1950s and 1960s (Paul and Jackson 1993, 42).
10. Conrads study was comprehensive and methodologically sound and,
therefore, could not be dismissed by sheer rhetoric. Above all, it demonstrated
that deaf children educated through the oral system achieved extremely low edu-
cational levels.
11. For example, in Australia, a committee set up in Victoria developed its
own version of Signed English in the 1970s, accumulating a vocabulary from a
range of sources, including Auslan, SEE 2, other native sign languages from dif-
ferent countries, and those signs developed by the committeea conglomeration
indeed. The majority of deaf people who had been asked to participate in the
construction of the Australian version of Signed English, in fact, walked out of
the committee. But the process continued regardless of the boycott by the Deaf
community, indicative of the conviction held by the teachers of deaf students of
their authority not only over education but also over signing as a mode. Cer-
tainly, their actions indicated clearly that Signed English belonged to the teachers
of deaf students and not to Deaf people themselves.
12. Available studies of academic performance by profoundly deaf and se-
verely hearing impaired students show that those students who have access to
sign language as a full-fledged first language have higher literacy skills than those
who have had no access to sign language but for whom the language of the hear-
ing community is being promoted as a first languagethat is, those using Signed
English or oralist approaches. Thus, although Signed English may give some un-
derstanding of the English language, that understanding will always be limited
and partial. Signed English, too, is not a language of communication but is con-
fined to contrived situations like the classroom. It is not used within Deaf com-
munities and, thus, has none of the natural dynamics of a natural language, being
designed and imposed from outside. Its use reinforces the identification of Deaf
people as being disabled by ensuring their linguistic dependence on their teach-
ers who become the experts not only in spoken and written language but also in
the legitimate form of signed language. Note that Signed English is based on the
grammar of written English, not spoken English, which creates particular confu-
sion when combined with lipreading.
13. Research from America and Denmark has shown that, in some cases, the
signed portion of the so-called Total Communication process is unintelligible.
See, for example, Johnson and Erting (1990), Strong and Chaarlson (1987), and
Hansen (1989).
14. For a discussion of early mainstreaming in America, see Van Cleve
(1993).
15. As occurred also in Australia, America, and other parts of the Western
world. For discussions of the mainstreaming of deaf students in America, see
Baynton (1996, 149 ff.), Karchmer and Allen (1999), and Allen and Schoem
(1997).
232 a sociological history of discrimination

16. The act also challenged the need for specialized teaching qualification for
teachers of deaf students. The British Association for Teachers of the Deaf lob-
bied against the challenge and won (see Bannister 1992).
17. For a collection of responses to mainstreaming in Britain in its early days,
see Montgomery (1981).
18. For discussion of the National Curriculum and its effect on the education
of the deaf, see Gray (1993) and Webster (1990).
19. We have discussed this research in detail elsewhere (Branson and Miller
1991). For discussion of the fundamental link between the educational use of
minority languages and human rights see The Hague Recommendations Regard-
ing the Educational Rights of National Minorities (Foundation on Inter-Ethnic
Relations 1996).
20. See, for example, Mason (1991) and Ladd (1991) as well as other articles
in Taylor and Bishop (1991).
21. See, for example, Ladd (1991).
22. Research here and elsewhere has shown clearly that girls educated in
single-sex environments perform better on the whole than those in coeducational
settings (see Branson and Miller 1979; Yates 1987a, 1987b). The all-girls school,
transformed from a discriminatory curriculum based on preconceived notions of
the normal girl to a comprehensive curriculum, has been shown to be an envi-
ronment in which girls can achieve without being put down by the male society,
without being constantly confronted by a male competitive presence, without
being disabled by male values.
23. See Baker and Child (1993) and Powers, Gregory, and Thoutenhoofd
(1999).
24. See, in particular, Conrad (1979), Lane (1988), Johnson, Liddell, and
Erting (1989), and BBC (1988).
25. For discussions of the interweaving of ethnicity and nationalism in the
current era, see Tambiah (1996), Comaroff (1995), and Castells (1997).
9
Ethno-Nationalism and Linguistic
Imperialism: The State and the
Limits of Change in the Battles for
Human Rights for Deaf People

On 27 June 1999, four thousand people marched through London in


support of British Sign Language (BSL), demanding its recognition as the
language of the British Deaf community and asserting the right of deaf
children to be educated in a bilingual environment with BSL as the lan-
guage of instruction. They demanded equal citizenship rights for Deaf
people, and the formal recognition of their language was of central im-
portance. Organized by the Federation of Deaf People, the march united
all sides of the British Deaf community.1 The march epitomized the at-
mosphere of victory and achievement of battles won as well as a confi-
dence with respect to new battles still to be fought that now permeates
gatherings of deaf people throughout the Western world.
Deaf pride and a sense of Deaf identity are strong and overt in Deaf
clubs; at conferences on Deaf History, Deaf Studies, and sign language;
at national and international meetings of Deaf societies and federations;
in Deaf schools; at colleges and universities where centers and institutes
for Deaf Studies and sign language research can be found; and of course,

233
234 a sociological history of discrimination

in those rarer universities and institutes for deaf people.2 Everywhere


this confidence and sense of pride is explicitly linked to the achievement
of linguistic human rights, to the increasing recognition of sign languages
as legitimate and primary languages for deaf people in education and in
everyday life.
Although the transformation of practice as distinct from policy is a
slow process, the qualitative transformation of Deaf identity from the
damnation to the celebration of difference gels well with current cultural
environments in the West in which a sense of ethnic identity is primary.
We move beyond the nation-state because the orientations and achieve-
ments of Deaf communities throughout the world are increasingly domi-
nated by international institutions. The international bureaucracies such
as the United Nations, UNESCO, and the World Federation of the Deaf
as well as the European Union of the Deaf tend to guide developments at
national and subnational levels.
Although the nation remains the political structure within which pro-
grams are carried out, identity increasingly derives not from a sense of
national pride but from membership in an ethnic group and from an as-
sertion of cultural difference. Ethnicity, language, and new concepts of
community dominate the fight against an increasingly international, indi-
viduated, and alienating world. In this final chapter of our investigation
into the cultural construction of deaf people as disabled, we also con-
sider these international movements as Western Deaf leaders assert a
Deaf identity that focuses on cultural difference, especially on linguistic
difference, but that at the same time asserts the existence of both na-
tional Deaf communities and an international Deaf community.3
After briefly reviewing the current achievements and aspirations asso-
ciated with the battle for deaf peoples linguistic human rights in and
through education in the West, we turn to examine a new symbolic vio-
lence associated not with the damnation of difference but with the denial
of difference. Western Deaf and hearing champions of linguistic human
rights for Deaf people are spreading the message of Deaf pride within
and beyond the West. They assert with confidence that a Deaf identity is
primary for all deaf people throughout the world, and that all deaf peo-
ple are members of an international Deaf community.
Beyond the violence that has characterized the relationship between
hearing and deaf people for centuries is a new symbolic violence, cer-
tainly a gentle, invisible form of violence which is never recognized as
such (Bourdieu 1977b, 192). This new development is a symbolic vio-
Ethno-Nationalism and Linguistic Imperialism 235

lence of a classic imperialist kind because, as these aid workers spread


the Deaf gospel throughout the world, they unwittingly are becoming
agents in the creation and oppression of Deaf minorities.

Linguistic Human Rights and the


International Deaf Community
Despite the problems experienced in even the most advanced countries
with respect to the education of deaf people, Deaf communities through-
out the world over the last two decades have begun, at last, to achieve
recognition by national and international authorities that they are cul-
tural minorities with distinct languages.4 Even so, many government au-
thorities and even some deaf people themselves still regard Deaf commu-
nities as disabled cultural minorities. At an international level, the
World Federation of the Deaf has coordinated the fight to get worldwide
recognition of sign languages as bona fide languages and to use these lan-
guages as media of instruction in the education of the deaf students. At
the closing ceremony of the Tenth World Congress of the World Federa-
tion of the Deaf in Helsinki on 28 July 1987, a formal resolution was
adopted on sign language recognition. It began:

Whereas: Recent research both in linguistics and in neurobiology has firmly


established the spatial languages of deaf people as fully expressive lan-
guages which not only exhibit complex organizational properties, but also
display grammatical devices not derived from spoken languages. Distinct
sign languages are now seen as fully developed languages with complex
rules of grammar, with a rich variety of inflectional processes and an ex-
tensive variety of derivational processes, built from both a vast vocabulary
base and sophisticated grammatical devices for lexical expansion. These are
also autonomous languages comfortably capable of intellectual wit, conver-
sation, evocative disputation, and poetry.

Be it adopted: The distinct national sign languages of indigenous deaf pop-


ulations should be officially recognized as their natural language of right for
direct communication.
Deaf people who are advanced native speakers of their national sign
language should also be recognized as the legitimate arbiters in the correct
usage of the indigenous sign language, and should hold significant posi-
tions in research efforts to develop graphic educational materials in the sign
language.
236 a sociological history of discrimination

Embodied in this resolution is the long and complex linguistic history


that we have explored here, a history of interaction between deaf people
and the hearing authorities and experts on whom they have relied for ac-
cess to the resources of their respective societies, especially education. It
embodies, too, the battle for the recognition and use of natural sign lan-
guages rather than of systems that are based on spoken languages and
designed by hearing experts.
In demanding the recognition and use of the distinct national sign
languages of indigenous deaf populations, the resolution also points to
the framework within which these battles have been fought and within
which solutions are assumed to exist: the nation-state. So far, in our ex-
ploration of the cultural construction of deaf people as disabled, we
have used the nation as a framework, focusing to varying degrees on
Britain, America, France, and Australia. Although many of the processes
at work have cut across national boundaries, the nation has been the
political structure within which policy has been framed and practice
coordinated. However, as we turn to consider the battles by Deaf com-
munities to achieve linguistic human rights, we must look with a critics
eye at the very concept of nation. We must read against the grain of
nationalism.

The Modern Nation-State and the


Emergence of National Languages
To use Ben Andersons term, the nation is an imagined community. It
assumes the status of a community, encompassing and transforming tra-
ditional communities, claiming the loyalties and orientations that were
formerly afforded the village, the lineage, the clan, the tribe, and the
neighborhood. The modern concept of the nation is of a world defined
by boundaries that contain a tangible and finite population. It is a world
of maps and territoriesa world of private and, by extension, national
real estate. In the older imagining, . . . states were defined by centres,
borders were porous and indistinct, and sovereignties faded impercepti-
bly into one another (Anderson 1991, 19)
The concept of nation with its tangible, bounded territorya space
to be occupied by individualssupports the modern democratic state in
which people are, of economic necessity, equal and individuated before
the law; in which the community is an epiphenomenon; and in which
territory is a resource to be traded. Identity is likewise individuated. It
Ethno-Nationalism and Linguistic Imperialism 237

is divorced in all public purpose from community and bestowed not


through communal membership but through the drivers license, the
credit card, and the passport.
In this environment, language is likewise an individuated compe-
tence, an arbitrary bundle of arbitrary signs, separate from the world it
seeks to describe and understand. It is a tool for the acquisition of fi-
nancial, material, and cultural capital. The sign no longer is linked in-
tegrally to that which it describes, and language no longer is an inte-
gral part of ones identity that anchors a person to communal roots.
Language is also defined by boundaries, not by its users. The national
language is the language of the nation-state, not necessarily of its citi-
zensprobably, the first language of most of those who wield power
and authority in that public realm. Certainly, it is the basis for the lin-
guistic competence required for success in the public realm, and it is
the formal language of that realms law, economics, politics, and edu-
cation.
The orientation toward languages as national languages, as official
languages, or as both also involves the standardization of language, or
the development of codified, acceptable language in grammars and dic-
tionaries. The communal and idiosyncratic aspects of language use give
way to depersonalized, decentered language that is dominated by the
written form. The national language that dominates within the borders
of the state and throughout its spheres of influence beyond creates mi-
nority status for other languages within the nation-state. These minority
languages are not used necessarily by a statistical minority but are cul-
turally devalued and, frequently, operate as community languages. Their
use signals community membership, in contrast to the individuated iden-
tity created by the national language.
The circumstances in which minority languages operate vary enor-
mously throughout the world, and we make no attempt here to general-
ize further. The international atmosphere is well established by Phillip-
son, Rannut, and Skutnabb-Kangas: It is only a few hundred of the
worlds 67,000 languages that have any kind of official status, and it
is only speakers of official languages who enjoy all linguistic human
rights (Phillipson, Rannut, and Skutnabb-Kangas 1994, 2). Official lan-
guages are usually national languages, though not always so, as Bamg-
bose (1991) points out, giving the example of Kenya, where the national
language is Swahili and the official language is English. An increasing
number of comparable examples exist.
238 a sociological history of discrimination

Nationalism and the Deaf Struggle for Linguistic Rights


For many people throughout the world, therefore, the nation and things
national are central to their identities, taken-for-granted aspects of them-
selves and their surroundings. Although minority groups within a nation-
state might feel alienated from the nations culture, its official language,
and its political or economic agenda, they frequently attempt to realize
their rights and goals through the formation of national associations.
Thus, for many Deaf people throughout the world, their minority culture
and their minority rights are expressed nationally. National Deaf associ-
ations send national delegates to the Congresses of the World Federation
of the Deaf, compete in national teams at the World Deaf Games, and
so on. Throughout the world, the strategies pursued by Deaf communi-
ties in achieving recognition of the linguistic rights of deaf people involve
the development and recognition of national sign languages. How are
these languages constructed? By whom? How do situations vary among
nations?
The promotion of national sign languages presents us with a dilemma
associated with the hegemony of nationalism. As Deaf communities and
policymakers attempt to realize the linguistic rights of deaf people, they
have tended to promote national sign languages. This nationalism is
manifested in the drive for the publication of national sign language dic-
tionaries. As the World Federation of the Deaf report on the status of
sign languages reveals, no country has a dictionary for more than one
sign language. Of the forty-three countries surveyed, only six did not
have sign language dictionaries, but all the rest had only one, a national
sign language dictionary (World Federation of the Deaf, Scientific Com-
mission on Sign Language 1993, 38).5
For an example of the process, we consider the publication of the
British Sign Language Dictionary in 1992 (Brien 1992), which repre-
sented the much-awaited achievement of linguistic and cultural identity
for the British Deaf community. Prepared for the Deaf communitys own
national association, the British Deaf Association, it also represented the
Deaf communitys assertion of control over sign language as opposed to
control by the hearing-dominated CACDP, the Council for the Advance-
ment of Communication with Deaf People, which coordinates the teach-
ing and, thus, the representation of BSL as well as the certification of sign
language interpreters and which, at that stage, was still identified with
the use of Signed English.
Ethno-Nationalism and Linguistic Imperialism 239

But what does the concept of a national sign language involve in so-
cial, cultural, and linguistic terms? The dictionaries themselves embody
not only the symbolic representation of a language and, thus, its recogni-
tion but also the standardization of language, the move toward linguistic
purity that is a feature of literate languages.6 The achievement of linguis-
tic rights for the signing Deaf community, therefore, involves the follow-
ing conundrum:

1. The recognition of sign languages is basic to the achievement of hu-


man rights for deaf people.
2. Education through sign languages is basic for the achievement of
human rights and for the personal and educational development
of all deaf people.7
3. The recognition of sign languages involves the assertion by national
deaf associations of the existence of national sign languages, the
drive for formal recognition of these languages as national sign lan-
guages, and for education through these respective languages for all
deaf people nationally.
4. But the assertion and recognition of national sign languages can lead
to the failure to recognize the existence of minority sign languages in
precisely the same way as the assertion and promotion of national
spoken and written languages leads to the oppression and suppres-
sion of minority spoken and written languages.
5. And yet the recognition of the sign language of the majority is an
enormous and vital, even revolutionary, step forward for Deaf com-
munities throughout the world. At one level, it is the recognition of
a minority language, but at another, it is the suppression of other
minority languages.

Particularly in the case of hereditarily deaf people, the forces of mod-


ernization, of individualism and the breakdown of community and
communities, have, as we have shown, been compounded by the med-
ical model of deafness that describes deafness as individuated and patho-
logical, a quality of the individual and not of the community. Heredi-
tarily deaf people did not disappear, but the old forms of community of
which deaf people were often accepted and integrated members did dis-
appear. These people and their children, deaf and hearing, remained
and remain the bearers and reproducers of the languages that had de-
veloped in their communities. Distinct Deaf communities emerged that
240 a sociological history of discrimination

were not face-to-face communities of deaf and hearing people but were
school communities and the gatherings of deaf people in adult Deaf as-
sociations. The Deaf community in the West is now a network of Deaf
peoplefrom both Deaf and hearing familiesthat come together in
family gatherings; at restaurants; on sporting occasions; at churches; at
homes for elderly Deaf people; at clubs, especially, Deaf clubs and soci-
eties; and, of course, at school. They are bound together by their deaf-
ness, their subculture, and above all, their sign language with its immedi-
ate and total accessibility.
Most important, these Deaf communities have been conceptualized as
national communitiesthe British Deaf Community, the Australian Deaf
Community, the Swedish Deaf Community, and so on. Their unity has
been expressed politically by asserting that the community uses a na-
tional sign language and that this language must be the vehicle through
which the Deaf community accesses the resources of the wider society by
means of interpreters and hearing people who are associated with the
Deaf community and who learn the language. In particular, this language
must be the vehicle to access education by means of signing teachers.
To highlight the complexities of the linguistic politics involved, we turn
to examine the short but dramatic history of the development and politi-
cal recognition of Australias national sign language, Auslan. Australia
makes a revealing case study when we consider the relatively recent ar-
rival of nonaboriginal settlers to its shores, its small population, its in-
tensely multicultural character, and its explicit policies with respect to
the status and use of minority languages. Australia could also be seen as
a British outpost until American influences on deaf education and on the
Deaf community began to make themselves felt beginning in the 1970s.

AuslanA National Sign Language


The Australian case illustrates the effect, particularly through formal
education, of linguistic imperialism on a language as it emerged from
British and Irish roots. Australias non-aboriginal deaf population was
made up of individual settlers who came together to build a community.
They came together primarily through the establishment of schools, par-
ticularly in the mid- to late-1800s. From this base, deaf adult associa-
tions and clubs were formed. The role of formal education and voluntary
associations in the development of community characterizes the Aus-
tralian situation as one not only linked to the circumstances of a settler
Ethno-Nationalism and Linguistic Imperialism 241

colony but also historically specific to a Western complex society where


formal associations link individuals together in the absence of tradi-
tional, community-based institutions. As Deaf communities developed in
the capital cities, so, too, did the language in all its diversity. Although
teachers, interpreters, and others who worked with deaf people gradu-
ally began to assert the existence of a national language, Deaf people
themselves were, within their various communities, conscious of the de-
velopment of regional differences.8
From the early days of its development, Auslan was subjected to na-
tionalist forces as deaf and hearing champions of signing sought to stan-
dardize the language. The pressures for standardization came particu-
larly from those involved in the early development of sign language
interpreting, but it came also from leaders of Deaf communities in Aus-
tralias capital cities, who traveled a great deal to maintain contact and
who stressed the need for national cooperation. In 1938, the hearing
leaders of the welfare societies for the deaf, societies originally set up by
deaf people but, by then, under the control of hearing professionals, met
to coordinate the development of interpreter training for hearing people.
These leaders decided that the sign language conventions to be used
throughout Australia were to be those of the sign language of London.
The responsibility for carrying out this process of standardization was
bestowed not on a deaf signer but on a hearing missioner, a true bilingual
who had signed from childhood but who was hearing nonetheless.
As is the case with language development in general, sign language use
in Australia varied according to the circumstances and personnel in-
volved. Before the introduction of pure oralism, the teachers, deaf and
hearing, used large amounts of fingerspelling and were influenced in their
syntax by English, particularly, once deaf teachers disappeared from the
classroom. The language used by interpreters varied markedly depending
on whether they were teachers acting as interpreters or were missioners
to deaf people. But in the homes of the congenitally deaf, where signing
was a true first language, is where natural sign language was nurtured
and where distinctly Australian conventions emerged.
However, the public use of signing remained in the control of hearing
teachers, interpreters, and missioners. Examination of films of public
gatherings of deaf societies in the 1950s, when pure oralism was at its
height in the schools, reveals interpreters signing in a way that is thor-
oughly dominated by English syntax and by a tendency to speak while
signing, a practice common in other countries at the time. However, films
242 a sociological history of discrimination

of deaf people signing at gatherings of the Deaf community reveal the use
of natural sign language, or what was to become known as Auslan. Yet,
in the public arena, deaf people would not begin to control their lan-
guage until the early 1990s.
The last few decades have seen a cultural and linguistic transforma-
tion of Australia that has included transformations of official language
policy. The development of Auslan as the national language of the Aus-
tralian Deaf community is linked to these multicultural, multilingual de-
velopments. The influx of a wide range of immigrants from Asia and the
Middle East has created a multicultural and multilingual society, and
multinationalism has been paraded since the 1970s as a positive feature
of Australian society by a significant section of the establishment. At the
same time, Australia has recognized the rights of Aborigines with respect
to culture and language. The 1980s saw attempts to grapple with the
linguistic complexities of this multicultural population through the de-
velopment of formal language policies that were designed to provide
guidelines for the use of Australias languages in public life, including
education.
Today, Auslan is recognized as a distinct language. In 1988, a diction-
ary of Auslan was published. In 1991, after submissions to the govern-
ment from the Australian Sign Language Advisory Board (AUSLAB), a
committee of the Australian Association of the Deaf, which is a Deaf-
controlled national organization, the federal government stated the fol-
lowing in its national languages policy:

It is now increasingly recognised that signing deaf people constitute a group


like any other non-English-speaking language group in Australia, with a
distinct sub-culture recognised by shared history, social life and sense of
identity, united and symbolised by fluency in Auslan, the principal means
of communication within the Australian deaf community. Auslan is an in-
digenous Australian language. (Commonwealth of Australia 1991, 20)

Within the space of a few years, the various signing traditions scattered
throughout a large continent had a single name and had been declared
a national language. For the vast majority of the non-aboriginal Deaf
community, a great deal had been achieved, especially given the basic
uniformity of sign language use among non-aboriginal deaf people in
Australia. This uniformity is a result of the time frame involved and the
demographic peculiarities of Australias settlers. In Britain, regional vari-
ations in sign languages are more apparent and are the subject of inten-
Ethno-Nationalism and Linguistic Imperialism 243

sive debate within British Deaf communities, especially, in relation to the


degree to which the British Sign Language represented in the BSL dic-
tionary (Brien 1992) and the language used on national television, es-
pecially in the program See Hear, is representative of language use
throughout the country. The same situation is true of many other Euro-
pean countries, depending on their size, and is even more apparent in
most non-Western countries.
With Auslan formally recognized by the national government, in con-
trast to the situation in Britain where such formal recognition is still
being fought for, the signing Deaf community in Australia felt that natu-
ral sign language was beginning to triumph over Signed English and that
the ground was set for the development of Auslan-based bilingual educa-
tion as the formally recognized mode of education for deaf people. The
actual effect of the national language policy was less dramatic, although
bilingual programs have developed with significant educational success.
But does such a nationalist policy even potentially satisfy the linguistic
and educational needs of all signing deaf people?

Aid as Imperialism
Among both hearing policymakers and the leaders of Deaf communities,
the fact that deaf people share deafness tends to override considerations
of cultural and linguistic difference. For many hearing people, the fact
that Deaf communities develop a wide range of languages in the same
way as hearing people, and that sign languages can be as mutually in-
comprehensible as hearing languages seems to be subsumed by the med-
ical model of deafness. Deaf people become conceptualized simply as
deaf individuals, no matter where they come from, rather than as cul-
tural human beings. For many leaders of Deaf communities at national
and international levels, the assertion of deaf unity at the political level
glosses over the cultural and linguistic differences, often giving rise to an
unconscious linguistic and cultural imperialism on the part of the domi-
nant Deaf communities. This dynamic has been particularly apparent in
the spread of Western educational programs throughout Asia, Africa,
and the Pacific.
Throughout the former Third World and beyond, Western educators
are selling their educational resources as fervently as the West sold fer-
tilizers and dwarf varieties of grain in the 1960s. They sell courses, set
up overseas campuses, and provide an endless stream of educational
244 a sociological history of discrimination

consultants. The education of deaf people has not been exempt from this
neocolonial process. Teachers from particular countries who plan to
teach deaf students are trained in the West through aid programs and
take the national sign languages or manual codes back with them as the
basis to develop signing processes for use in their countrys schools. In
other cases, Deaf and hearing educational experts from the West have
simply gone in and used their own sign languages as the language of ed-
ucation, either ignoring or assuming the nonexistence of local sign lan-
guages. In other places overseas, educational experts have sat in commit-
tees and created national signing systems that are tied to the national
spoken languages.
More than thirty years have passed since Theresa Hayter published
her devastating critique of Western aid programs, Aid as Imperialism
(Hayter 1971). But the imperial mentality is as evident as ever in the aid
work carried out by Western governments and the World Federation of
the Deaf in so-called developing countries. Although missionaries in
the past introduced the signing conventions of Britain or America or
France into the schools they established throughout the colonized world,
the aid workers of the postcolonial world have introduced the natural
sign languages of the West, claiming to provide deaf people with sign
language, as though they did not already have any. In parts of Africa, for
example, deaf people are beginning to assert their own linguistic identi-
ties by rejecting the American Sign Language introduced by aid workers.9
At the same time, deaf aid workers have gone out to recruit deaf peo-
ple to the Deaf community, to promote a sense of Deaf identity as though
that identity must, in all cultural circumstances, override any other iden-
tity. Research into non-Western communities containing large numbers
of deaf people has shown that this kind of a Deaf identity is often mean-
ingless where kin- and community-based identities are primary and, es-
pecially, where sign languages are used readily and naturally by the ma-
jority of the community, both deaf and hearing.10
Recently, involvement of both sign language experts and educators of
deaf people has been increasing with respect to recording and developing
national sign languages for use in education. In Indonesia, for example,
an international committee developed a system of signed Indonesian.11
In Thailand, the emergence of sign language dictionaries has a long and
complex history involving a progression from collections of signs by
teachers of deaf students to the publication of the revised and expanded
edition of The Thai Sign Language Dictionary in 1990 (The National
Association for the Deaf in Thailand 1990, xlvi ff.). These compilations
Ethno-Nationalism and Linguistic Imperialism 245

have constantly involved Western experts but have also increasingly in-
volved deaf Thai people. In the latest edition, despite an effort to stress
that Thai Sign Language is a language in its own right, completely sepa-
rate from spoken Thai lexically and syntactically (The National Associa-
tion for the Deaf in Thailand 1990, xxxiixxxiv), signs were collected
from many parts of Thailand with the apparent assumption that a single
Thai Sign Language exists, a national language. Yet current research in-
dicates that American influences on signing among the educated Deaf
people in Bangkok are significant (Woodward 1997a) and that wide vari-
ations in signing occur among Deaf communities in Thailand as well as
throughout Vietnam and Laos (Woodward 1997b).12
In South Africa, a committee collected signs from all over the country
to construct a Dictionary of Southern African Signs for Communicating
with the Deaf (Penn 1992). The signs illustrated in these volumes come
from at least twelve cultural regions, from twelve distinct communities
with distinct natural sign languages, and yet, one of the prefaces to the
first volume states,

A beginning has now been made to record the beauty and diversity of South
African Sign Language. . . . Needed as well are studies of the syntax of
South African Sign Language in its many forms. . . . This is a formidable
challenge, but it is one that the South African Deaf community is more than
capable of meeting. (Penn 1992, xi)

The slip from the recognition of the diversity and multilingual nature
of South African Deaf communities into a unitary orientation toward
South African Sign Language and the South African Deaf commu-
nity, both in the singular, is symptomatic of the approach taken by gov-
ernments, linguists, and linguistic rights activists alike.
Deaf people in any country, no matter what linguistic differences exist
among them, are faced with a national problem. They are faced with the
imposition of national signed systems and with education processes co-
ordinated at a national level. Their response, where an urban and na-
tionally conscious Deaf community exists, is likewise a national response
as they oppose signed versions of the national spoken language by as-
serting the existence of a national sign language. The sign language dic-
tionary has become an emblem of triumph over the dominant hearing
spoken language.
In this kind of battle, the international level of activity has also been
important, with the World Federation of the Deaf providing strong sup-
port to national organizations. But again, the coordination of activities
246 a sociological history of discrimination

is assumed to be at the national level. So, for example, in relation to the


rights of Deaf children to sign language as a first language and to educa-
tion through sign language, the Recommendations of the Commission
on Sign Language of the World Congress of the World Federation of the
Deaf held in Tokyo in 1991 (World Federation of the Deaf n.d., 5053)
state:

A. A Sign language should be recognized and treated as the first language


of a Deaf child.
a) The Sign language in question must be the national Sign language,
that is, the natural Sign language of the adult Deaf community in that re-
gion. (World Federation of the Deaf n.d., 50)

The recommendations continue in relation to the education of deaf chil-


dren:

B. Deaf children have the right to be educated, particularly with regard to


reading and writing, in a bilingual (or multilingual) environment.
a) The national Sign language should be the language of instruction for
most academic subjects. (World Federation of the Deaf n.d., 50)

National sign languages are assumed to exist.


Although such a national approach might be appropriate for coun-
tries such as Britain and America that have long-established educational
systems for deaf people, these kinds of policies need to be critically ex-
amined for non-Western countries, for example Indonesia, in which large
numbers of geographically dispersed communities generate large num-
bers of sign languages. We must also note that, in many Western soci-
eties, current sign language policies, in focusing exclusively on assumed
national sign languages, ignore the sign languages of cultural minorities,
especially those of their indigenous inhabitants. For example, in Aus-
tralia, which has a long history of Deaf education, the acceptance of
Auslan as a national sign language ignores the existence of numerous in-
digenous sign languages. The iron cage of bureaucracy continues to con-
tainthat is, rationalizepolicy and practice to suit the wider adminis-
trative requirements of the economy and the state.

Linguistic Imperialism at Home and Abroad


The prime concern in this chapter has been to examine what effect the
ideology and practice of ethno-nationalismand, by extension, multi-
Ethno-Nationalism and Linguistic Imperialism 247

nationalismhas had on the framing and realizing of policies toward sign


language that has been done by educators, by governments, and by the
Deaf communities themselves. In particular, we have been concerned
with critically examining the moves by Deaf communities to assert and
manifest national sign languages through processes of standardization.
In the past, deaf people have been subjected to linguistic imperialism as
an aspect of normalization, particularly through the agency of education.
Current moves by the urban-based leaders of national Deaf communities
appear to be doing the same to Deaf minorities, as the forces of national-
ism impose the national sign language as the source of all knowledge and
the basis for effective membership in the national Deaf community.
In the process, the differences among the sign languages within nation-
states are devalued or ignored. Although the acknowledgment of na-
tional sign languages, which are, in fact, natural languages and wide-
spread, involves the realization of linguistic human rights for some and
even possibly a majority of the Deaf communities of a nation, they tend
to obscure the linguistic complexities of the deaf population. Inevitably,
they create minorities within minorities.
Was the Australian governments recognition of Auslan a clear and un-
controversial triumph for minority linguistic rights? Can we assume that
Australia has a national sign language? What about the untapped world
of Aborigine sign languages? And what about those non-Anglo-Celtic
migrants into Australia? A recent study revealed that, for the state of
Victoria alone, of the deaf children in segregated schools and segregated
facilities within schools, 24 percent came from non-English-speaking
background (NESB) families. Thirty-four languages other than English
(LOTE) were in use among the families of these NESB students. Among
NESB deaf students who were integrated into mainstream schools, thirty-
one LOTE were in use (Branson and Miller 1998c).
The process to select appropriate sign languages to act as the regional
or national vehicles for the development of bilingual systems of deaf
education is, of course, not straightforward. The problem is also not pe-
culiar to sign languages, as Bamgboses review of the problems selecting
languages for education in sub-Saharan Africa shows (Bamgbose 1991).
Although, on the surface, a policy of bilingual education appears to
acknowledge the linguistic human rights of minority groups, the unin-
tended consequences can be a symbolic violence resulting from national
policies that ignore the linguistic and cultural diversity of Deaf commu-
nities within national boundaries.
248 a sociological history of discrimination

We have also shown how Western Deaf communities and their lead-
ers and organizations can unwittingly become the agents of a cultural
and linguistic imperialism over non-Western Deaf communities. Western
Deaf people are in danger of imposing on these non-Western deaf peo-
ple the sort of oppression and alienation that they themselves have had
to suffer for so long from hearing missionaries, religious and secular.
Threatened, in part, by the kinds of linguistic imperialism outlined
above, many of the natural sign languages of the world are disappearing
as quickly and as surely as Western imperialism destroyed the vast ma-
jority of aboriginal languages in the lands they colonized.
We have focused here on the achievements of Deaf activists around
the world, on their hopes for themselves and for Deaf children, and on
their aspirations for deaf people throughout the world. We have also
shown how even the oppressed can themselves become oppressors if the
complexities of linguistic and cultural rights are not explored carefully.
Deaf people have achieved a great deal in the last decade insofar as natu-
ral sign languages have received widespread recognition academically
and politically and insofar as Deaf communities have been recognized as
linguistic minorities rather than as collections of disabled individuals.
But the medical model of deafness also remains strong, manifest par-
ticularly in the faith of people at large and in investment by governments
and private enterprise in the cochlear implant and associated oral-aural
educational programs. Medical diagnosis also remains the mechanism
by which deaf people are discriminated against. For example, although
it is now ideologically incorrect to refuse a prospective immigrant entry
to Australia on the basis of their being deaf or disabled, the current
regulations provide for the refusal of entry on medical grounds. The
Public Interest Criteria (criteria 4005) in the Migration Act state that
the prospective migrant can enter Australia if he or she is free of any
disease or condition that would in the opinion of a Commonwealth
medical officer require care or treatment of various kinds or would re-
sult in the person becoming a significant charge on public funds. The
criteria also contain an additional clause, with more than a hint of eu-
genics, that states that the applicant for entry must be

found to be free from any disease or condition that, if offspring were pro-
duced, would, in the opinion of a Commonwealth medical officer, result in
the offspring being affected by a disease or condition referred to in clause
4005. (Commonwealth of Australia 1993, 478)
Ethno-Nationalism and Linguistic Imperialism 249

A recent newspaper report documents how, sixteen years ago, a


Malaysian couple and their children migrated to Australia. Under the
family reunion program, other members of their family have joined
them. The couple have also sponsored children of their own siblings to
come to Australia for their education. But one brother has consistently
been refused permission to migrate to Australia. Why? Because he is, as
the article put it a deaf mute (Its All in the Family, They Say 1996).
Medicine remains the profession through which discrimination is legit-
imized. The concept of pathology continues to ensure that normal-
ity is central to the conceptualization of humanity. Bureaucracy con-
tinues to provide the framework and process through which people are
labeled disabled and through which discrimination is rationalized.
Deaf people are still damned for their difference.
What then are the limits that are imposed on the celebration of differ-
ence by democratic societies oriented, as in the last instance, not to the
realization of human rights by means of equality of opportunity and in-
dividual rights before the law, but to the accumulation of capital?

The Limits to Change


To err is human, to persist in error is diabolical.
Canguilhem 1988a, ix

Scientists, professionals, and administrators have developed and pro-


moted a view of humanity that is based on a fundamental distinction
between the able-bodied and the disabled, between the normal and the
pathological. Their assumption, an erroneous one, has been that these
classifications are either common sense or scientific. The error is one that
has disabled and oppressed countless people and has doomed a portion
of the population to be ostracized as less than human, as beyond the pale.
The celebration rather than the damnation of difference requires that
differences be accommodated and that time, energy, and expense be dis-
tributed according to human need when equalizing access to economic,
political, cultural, linguistic, spiritual, and educational resources. How-
ever, that kind of orientation runs counter to the calculated use of labor
power in the interest of profit. It runs counter to an egalitarian individu-
alism based on competition among like units of humanity in the pursuit
of success and on the pursuit of individuated, exclusive achievement
linked to a sense of honor that lies in the individual attainment of riches.
250 a sociological history of discrimination

It challenges not only the imagery that sets the standards of acceptable
or, at least, desirable humanity through advertisements, daytime serial
dramas, and the imagery of popular culture but also the economic sys-
tem that uses this imagery and that feeds off the desire to be a beautiful,
able-bodied, fast-moving competitor on the playing field of life.
As we enter the new millennium, government-based policies associ-
ated with the disabled continue to focus on transforming disabled
peoples way of life by means of integration, normalization, and
community care. But as the exploration of mainstreaming practices
showed, policy is far too quickly defused of its radical purpose in prac-
tice. The administrative processes combined with expertise that is exer-
cised through established professions subvert the radical intent of in-
spired policy; thus, despite transformations in the treatment and even
classification of the disabled, the cosmology remains essentially un-
altered. The dyadic division of the population into normal and patho-
logical, the able-bodied and the disabled, remains. Why does this
subversion take place? Does it happen because the bureaucracy ulti-
mately serves the interests of an economy that sets the limits to inno-
vation? Does the economy set limits to ideological and political innova-
tion? Does it depend on the creation of an able-bodied workforce and,
thus, on the sociocultural construction of the disabled?

Economic Man and the Damnation of Difference


What ultimately lies in the way of the celebration of difference, is homo
oeconomicus, economic man. Economic man has no need for others
except insofar as they act as foils for himself. The others who define his
normality and his masculinity are but negative shadows, silences that lie
behind the confident assertions of his sexuality, his sanity, his reasonable-
ness, his self-discipline, his intelligence, his able-bodiedness. These oth-
ers are constructed as other than the sexuality, the sanity, the reason, the
intelligence that characterizes economic man. Just as female sexuality is
constructed as a negativity against the positive value accorded male sexu-
ality, so too is the person judged disabled constructed as a negativity in
terms that give homo oeconomicus form and value. To what degree can a
society subvert and redefine dominant practices and associated discursive
processes by transforming those practices and processes?13
Today, the call for radical, even revolutionary, change is unfashion-
able. The heady days of the late 1960s and 1970s are long past, the
Ethno-Nationalism and Linguistic Imperialism 251

Berlin Wall has gone, and China is a prime site for capitalist investment.
World capitalism is triumphant and tends to be accepted as the inevitable
way of the world. The changes called for by radicals in the West are es-
sentially cosmetic, which is not to say that they are not important to the
quality of life but, rather, to point out that they do not demand funda-
mental structural change. They do not seek to transform the economic
system but only to tinker with the complexion of its labor force
a higher proportion of women here, more blacks there, disabled workers
where they were not before. The economy and its ideological complexion
remain as before and, as before, demand normalization through disci-
pline; through the embodiment and institutionalization of unreason or
insanity; and through the diagnosis, embodiment, and technological
treatment of the pathological.
Whoever, in fact, embodies unreason or pathology may change, but
these concepts must be embodied. If anti-racist movements render the
discrimination against the black population unworkable, then other cat-
egories will emerge to ensure that a supply of cheap itinerate labor is
available. The disabled, women, migrants, the uneducated, and the
very young are all, as they have been throughout history, potential candi-
dates.
Western societies, therefore, twist and turn in complex ways as they
work through the contradictory expressions that are generated with the
coexistence of an exploitative mode of production and the ideologies of
equality and individualism. In 1939 when eugenicist fascism was at its
height and Stalin was in control in Russia, E. M. Forster wrote:

Two cheers for Democracy: one because it admits variety and two because
it admits criticism. Two cheers are quite enough: there is no occasion to give
three. Only Love the Beloved Republic deserves that. (Forster 1965, 78)

Ongoing criticism of societys discriminatory processes depends on care-


fully analyzing the facts through a sociological imagination that ques-
tions the most taken-for-granted premises on which our cultural con-
structs are based. True, Western democracies admit variety, but they
do so within classificatory frameworks that, despite apparent and even
tangible improvements in the quality of life, continue to disable and op-
press. The concept of the disabled remains an ideological construct
against which the normal workforce is constructed. The disabled
fight for access to resources and gain some groundramps, lifts, note-
takers, toilet facilitiesand achieve some concessions, even legislation,
252 a sociological history of discrimination

but they remain disabled. The classification and education of deaf peo-
ple continues to be formed and transformed by the ideological transfor-
mations of the wider society.

Notes
1. For a description of the march, see the editorial BSL March: Its Histor-
ical Significance: (1999).
2. Namely, Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., and the National
Technical Institute for the Deaf at Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester,
New York.
3. Note that, today, these communities are essentially communities of
adults who come together as adults. These communities contrast sharply with the
communities of the nineteenth century that were firmly grounded in school-based
communities of children and adolescents.
4. An earlier version of this discussion was published in the Journal of Soci-
olinguistics (Branson and Miller 1998a).
5. The survey did not discuss the presence of a range of specialist diction-
aries such as dictionaries of technical signs, gay signs, and so on, but one should
note that these specialist dictionaries are also national dictionaries.
6. See Edwards (1985, 27ff.) and Fishman (1973, 55ff.).
7. For a discussion of the fundamental link between the educational use of
minority languages and human rights, see The Hague Recommendations Regard-
ing the Educational Rights of National Minorities (Foundation on Inter-Ethnic
Relations 1996).
8. These differences are, for the most part, relatively minor lexical differ-
ences. As a nonliterate language, Auslan has existed, of course, only in its prac-
tice, through face-to-face interaction, until the recent effect of videos, television,
and the graphic representation of signing in dictionaries.
9. Personal discussions with delegates at the International Conference of
Teachers of the Deaf in Tel Aviv in 1995.
10. See material for Balinese communities in Branson, Miller, and Marsaja
(1996, 1999).
11. The sources of the 1,904 signs included in the dictionary are outlined in
the foreword:
This Indonesian Language Sign [Gesture] System Dictionary [Kamus Sistem Isyarat
Bahasa Indonesia] contains 1904 signs including signs for affixes and numerals. The
data for the Indonesian Language Sign System Dictionary was collected from a num-
ber of resources, such as the Sign Dictionary developed by the Institute for the Devel-
opment of Total Communication, Zinnia Educational Foundation, Jakarta, the Dic-
tionary of Indonesian Language Signs developed by the Working Party on Special
Education (KKPLB), IKIP Jakarta, the Sign Dictionary developed by the Karya Mulya
Ethno-Nationalism and Linguistic Imperialism 253

Foundation, Surabaya, American Sign Language (ASL), British Sign Language, Sign
for Singapore, plus signs developed by our own Dictionary Writing Team. The word
list for the Dictionary was taken from the Indonesian language syllabus for the Ele-
mentary School. (Departemen Pendidikan dan Kebudayaan 1994, v)

12. The fact that such wide variation can be expected in non-Western envi-
ronments such as Thailand is also supported by recent research on sign language
use in north Bali, Indonesia, where significant variations were found in the sign
languages that were used, even within a region of north Bali (Branson, Miller,
and Marsaja 1999).
13. By posing these questions, we are back to the central questions of nine-
teenth- and early twentieth-century philosophy and political economy, to the
Gramscian confrontation with the role of the intellectual and to Rosa Luxem-
burgs advocating for reform as an avenue to the revolutionary transformation of
society.
Appendix

The 1881 Survey of Methods Used


in British Schools for the Deaf

In 1881, the American Annals of the Deaf and Dumb published the re-
sults of a survey of the methods used in British schools for the deaf (Fay
1881). The results give an interesting overview of the British situation at
the time of the Milan Congress and on the eve of The Royal Commission
on the Conditions and Education of the Deaf and Blind. In listing the re-
sponses to their questions, Fay indicates the way in which classifications
of the methods used have been interpreted. He admits to careless phras-
ing of their questions, which resulted in some confusion about the way
the combined method was interpreted. From the description of results,
we can derive the following table (see table 1). Results were not received
from Brighton and Exeter, but knowledge of these schools from other
sources enables us to include them in the table. The fourth category of
combined was omitted from the table because it did not apply to any
institutions. The three columns for the combined method refer respec-
tively to the three variants outlined by Fay as follows (see also chapter 6):

By the manual method is meant the course of instruction which em-


ploys the sign language, the manual alphabet, and writing as the chief
means in the education of the deaf, and has facility in the comprehension
and use of written language as its principal object. . . .
By the oral method is meant that in which signs are used as little as
possible; the manual alphabet is discarded altogether, and articulation and
lip-reading, together with writing, are made the chief means as well as the
end of instruction. . . .
255
256 appendix

Table 1.
Teaching Methods Used in British Schools1881

School Manual Oral Combined


1 2 3
Aberdeen 
Bath  
Belfast  
Boston Spa 
Brighton 
Bristol  []
Doncaster   
Dublin (St Josephs) 
Dublin (St Marys) 
Dublin (Claremont)  []
Edgbastonlarge no. of  
deaf-mutes as staff
members
Edinburgh (Institute)  
Edinburgh (Donaldsons  
Hospital)
Exeter (to 1877)  ?
Glasgow ??
Hull 
Llandaff 
Liverpool 
London (Old Kent Road) 
LondonJews Home 
LondonAssociation for 
Oral Instruction
LondonMiss Hull 
LondonSoc. for 
Diffusion of German
System
London School Board 
Assoc. for Oral Instr.
London School Board  
Stainer
Manchester ?
Margate 
Newcastle-on-Tyne  
NorthamptonArnold 
Swansea  
Appendix 257

The combined method is not so easy to define, as the term is em-


ployed indiscriminately with reference to several distinct methods, such as (1)
the free use of both signs and articulation, with the same pupils and the same
teachers throughout their course of instruction; (2) the general instruction of
all pupils is by means of the manual method, with the special training of a part
of them in articulation and lip-reading as an accomplishment; (3) the instruc-
tion of some pupils by the manual method and others by the oral method in
the same institution; (4) though this is rather a combined systemthe em-
ployment of the manual method and the oral method in separate schools
under the same general management, pupils being sent to one establishment
or the other as seems best with regard to each individual case. (Fay 1881, 188)

The results are particularly interesting because they reveal an over-


whelming preference for the manual method, with articulation simply
seen as an accomplishment available to those with aptitude for speech.
Pure oralism is confined to private schools and those controlled by the
Association for Oral Instruction. The teachers and benefactors from
these private schools plus Stainer from the London School Board and El-
liott from Margate are the group that represented Britain at the Con-
gress of Teachers of the Deaf in Milan in 1880. If we take the number of
schools teaching solely or primarily by the manual methodwhere, if
articulation is taught at all, it is as an additional skill to those with the
necessary aptitudeas one category and pure oralism and the combina-
tion of oralism and manualism as the other two possibilities, a pie graph
of the distribution of schools looks like what is shown in figure 1.
This pie graph is based on the number of schools, not the number of
pupils. Were the number of pupils taken into account, the manual slice
would be much more dominant.

manual oral combined

Figure 1. U.K. Teaching Methods1881


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Index

aborigines, rights of, 242 Anderson, Ben, 236


abortion of potentially disabled babies, 32 animals, marginalization and classifica-
Abraham, Ernest, 168 tion of, 2325
Academy for the Deaf and Dumb, 104 Anne of Jesus, 14
Africa: rejection of ASL in, 244; South Anthony, David, 213
African Sign Language, 245; sub- apprenticeship system to train teachers
Saharan, 247 of the deaf, 19496
African American deaf students, 29 Aris, Philippe, 19192
Agricola of Heidelberg, 68 Aristotle, 87
Agung, Dewa, xi Arnold, Thomas, 163, 16468, 196
Ahlgren, Inge, 222 Arnot, Hugo, 102
aid as imperialism, 24346 articulation. See oralism; speech
The Albion Magazine, 2001 ASL. See American Sign Language
alienation of deaf people, 14877. Association for the Oral Instruction of
See also eugenics; oralism the Deaf and Dumb and Training
alphabets. See manual alphabets College for Teachers, 19697
American Breeders Society, 29 Asylum for the Support and Education
American deaf education: bilingual pro- of the Deaf and Dumb Children of the
grams, 222; Braidwoods and, 13437; Poor (London), 41, 12425
cost of, 190; deaf teachers, 199; first asylums, 36, 49, 104, 105, 122
school for the deaf, 13637; higher Atkinson, Joseph, 141
education, 14243; institutionaliza- audiometry, 201, 2045, 206
tion of teacher training, 199; IQ test- audiphone, 200, 201
ing, 51; methodological signs, devel- aural surgery. See surgery
opment of, 13739, 159; natural sign Australia: Auslan, 227, 24043, 247;
language, 15562; nineteenth century, combined method versus oralism, 185;
13236; oralism, 183 (see also oral- deaf teachers in, 143; diagnosing and
ism); rival schools, 13738; women classifying children in, 46; hospitals
trainees for oral method in, 197 for severely disabled children, 49;
American Eugenics Society, 29 immigrants, refusal to let enter, 248;
American Sign Language (ASL), 220, institutionalizing deaf as mentally
244 retarded, 48; IQ testing, 51; main-
ancient attitudes toward deaf people and streaming, 5254; manual alphabets,
sign language, 67 81; oralism, 2067; Princess Elizabeth

289
290 index

Australia (continued) Bingham, H.B., 195


kindergarten, 207; Public Interest Bird, G., 5354
Criteria of Migration Act, 24849; Birmingham school, 129, 15859
teacher training, 178, 206 Bishop, Juliet, 21819
Australian Nucleus-22 implant, 227 Blake, William, 18
automata, 23, 24 boarding schools, 191
body snatchers, 39
Bacon, Francis, 16, 17, 22, 67 Bolling, Thomas, 102, 103
Baker, Charles, 130, 156, 158, 159, 188, Bone, Edward, 61
19596 Bonet, Juan Pablo, 69, 76
Baker, Henry, 93, 96100, 104, 156 Boswell, John, 5
Baker, William, 9798 Bourdieu, Pierre, 4445, 60, 214
Bali, Indonesia, xi, 6 Boyle, Robert, 19, 20, 79, 84, 101
Ballestra, abb, 166 Braidwood, Isabella, 134, 135, 194
Bamgbose, Ayo, 247 Braidwood, John, 101, 111, 13437,
Banham, Debby, 62 156, 159, 19495
Barker, Charles, 16264 Braidwood, Thomas, 1004, 110, 111,
Barland, James, 14041 135, 156, 159, 19495
Battie, William, 40 Braidwood heritage, 179, 194, 19596
Baynton, Douglas C., 133 Britain: boarding schools, 191; com-
Bazot, A.M., 107 mittee to review educational provi-
BDA. See British Deaf Association sions for handicapped children, 50;
BDDA. See British Deaf and Dumb compared to France, 92, 11213, 129,
Association 144, 156; compulsory medical serv-
beauty map, 29 ices in schools, 189; eighteenth
Bbian, Roch-Ambroise-Auguste, 158, century, 8788; English as language
159 used throughout British Empire, 124;
Bede, 68 fifteenth century, 1314; funding of
Bedlam, xiv, 21, 23 schools, 18788; historical use of
begging, 7 sign language, 6162; IQ testing, 51;
Bell, Alexander Graham: day schools manual alphabets, 63, 81; National
favored by, 192; development of Curriculum, 219; public schools, 191;
hearing equipment, 200, 201; devel- regional sign language variations,
opment of technology to test hearing, 243; seventeenth century, 6690; wars
175, 201; goal to promote the well- in twentieth century, 18788. See also
born, 3031; against marriage be- British deaf education
tween deaf people, 15253; Royal British Deaf and Dumb Association
Commission appearance by, 181; (BDDA), 127, 185
teacher training, preference for British Deaf Association (BDA), 189,
women, 199; views of, 15253, 184 211, 214, 220, 221, 238
Berger, Peter L., 14 British deaf education, 7984, 12432,
Berman, Marshall, 23 16268, 18196; apprenticeship
Bernal, Brian, 207 system to train teachers, 19496;
Berthier, Ferdinand, 144, 159 bilingual programs, 222; books and
Bethlehem Royal Hospital, 21 printed material in schools, 157;
Biesold, Horst, 153 British philosophers involvement
bilingualism in deaf education, 22024, with, 7677; catechism, teaching of,
247 126; combined method employed in,
Binet, Alfred, 47 18287; complexity of linguistic envi-
Binet Scale, 47 ronment in deaf schools, 161; day
Index 291

schools, 19193; deaf principals and Burke, John, 212


teachers, 14041; disabling conse- Burns, Matthew, 127, 140, 141, 144
quences of, 18791; English as lan- Burwood Park School, 191, 203, 204
guage of education, 189; Fay survey Buxton, David, 152, 155, 17175, 188,
of methods, 16162, 183, 25558; 194, 197
first half of nineteenth century,
12430; funding for, 18890; higher Cabra schools, 180
education, 203; influences on, 123, CACDP (Council for the Advancement
179; late-nineteenth century, 179; of Communication with Deaf People),
lEpes influence on, 11011; main- 238
streaming, 21720; medical research cadavers, dissection of, 3839
and, 13032; missionary orientation Calvinism, 15
of, 13032; mix of methods in use in Campbell, Duncan, 9396
1960s, 211; natural sign language, capitalism, 8, 9, 20
15562; neglect of, 18991;one- Capra, Franz, 19
third clause, 188; oralism, 18183, Cartesian duality of body and mind,
192, 210 (see also oralism; pure oral- 2425, 38, 39
ism); partially deaf/ hearing, 2034, Catechism, teaching of, 126
217; as private enterprise, 96, 1001; Cattermole, Mary Ann, 141
pure oralism, 16268, 185; rebellion certification of teachers of deaf, 179,
at Birmingham school, 15859; resi- 19698
dential schools, 19193; Royal Com- Chidely, E. J., 195
mission on the Conditions and Educa- Child, Dennis, 215
tion of the Deaf and Blind, 18082; churches. See religion
school for poor and deaf students, Cibber, Caius Gabriel, xiv
11013; sign language, 15659, 184; The Circle of Knowledge (Baker), 163
teacher training for, 12728, 19396; classificatory schemes for nature, 22
Total Communication, 21417; Wallis Clerc, Laurent, 13536, 137, 144, 149,
and tradition of deaf education, 159, 160
7984; wealthy students, 127 clinical gaze: on deaf, 11418, 13032;
British Enlightenment, 67, 86 defining contour of humanity, 34;
British National Deaf Conference, 185 as diagnostic approach, 4648;
British Sign Language (BSL): bilingual linked with schools after WWII,
program, 222; earliest comprehensive 2056; on those diagnosed patho-
linguistic analysis of, 158; evolution logical, 33, 40
of, 130; importance of use in educa- cochlear implants, 22429
tion, 213; march to recognize (1999), coeducational classes, 152
233; natural sign language, in tradi- Cogswell, Mason, 133
tion of, 157; regional variations in, College of Teachers of the Deaf, 198
243; Scott and, 158 colonial intervention, 2728
British Sign Language Dictionary, 238, Columbia Institution for the Deaf
243 (Gallaudet College), 184
brute, 23 combined method, 161, 175, 181,
BSL. See British Sign Language 18287, 210, 21417, 257
bubonic plague, 6 Comit des Sourds-Muets, 144
Buckley, S., 5354 communication, uniformity of, 8
Bulwer, John, 7679 compulsory education, 42, 50, 179, 189,
bureaucratization and education of deaf 191
people in twentieth century, 4243, Comte, Auguste, 37
51, 178202 Condillac, Etienne Bonnot de, 86
292 index

Conference of Headmasters of Institu- community, 23536; nationalism and,


tions and of Other Workers for the 23840; recruiting efforts of, 244;
Education of the Deaf and Dumb, threat posed by, 15253
188, 197, 198 deaf education: alliance with surgical
congenital disabilities, elimination of, experimentation, 13132; in America
3134. See also Eugenics (see American deaf education); ap-
Conrad, R., 213, 220 prenticeship system to train teachers
Cooper, Astley, 39, 113, 225 of the deaf, 19496; audiometers used
Copernicus, 1618 in, 201, 2045, 206; bilingualism in,
Cornett, R. Orin, 212 22024, 247; in Britain (see British
Council for the Advancement of deaf education); bureaucratization in
Communication with Deaf People twentieth century, 178202; coeduca-
(CACDP), 238 tional classes, 152; compulsory sec-
Creasy, John, 135 ondary education, 42, 50, 189, 191;
Crickmore, Barbara, 123 confinement of deaf people, 12147;
Cronke, Dickory, 9396 Dalgarnos orientation toward, 85;
Crossley, Rosemary, 49 day schools, 19193; deaf teachers
Cued Speech, 212 (see deaf teachers); deinstitutionliza-
cultural construction of pathological tion, 21720; diagnostic profession-
humanity, 3738 als increasing role, 4951; disabling
cure, attempts to find, 11314. See also process of formal education, 4649;
Surgery in eighteenth century, 91120; English
Curtis, John Harrison, 131 language acquisition, 186; fifteenth
century, 6869; in France (see France);
dactylology, 163 hearing aids, use of, 200; language
Dalgarno, George, 67, 78, 8485, 87, proficiency and, 5051; lEpes
92 influence on, 11011; mainstreaming,
Darwin, Charles, 2627, 2930, 150 21720; monasteries, 62 (see also
Darwinism, 15051 monastic sign languages); natural sign
day schools, 19193 language, 15462; neglect of, 18990;
deaf-alphabets. See Manual alphabets nineteenth century, 12147; philo-
deaf and deafness: ancient and medieval sophical issues in, 7779; as private
attitudes toward, 6769; as category enterprise, 96, 1001; professionalism
of humanity, in view of philosophers, and depersonalization of disabilities,
8688; classified as disabled, xxi, 4346; pure oralism, 17375 (see also
xiii, 5960, 87, 139, 149, 178, pure oralism); school as clinic, 2057;
18791; degree of deafness, 5051, science and, 96, 99; secondary
175; institutionalization, 48, 190; education, 191; segregated, 4849,
stigma of, 31; surgical treatment of 221; sign language banned, 209 (see
(see surgery); technology to permit also pure oralism); in Spain, 6869;
hearing, 2002 in Sweden, 22122; as therapy,
The Deaf and Dumb: Their Education 2002; twentieth century, 178202;
and Social Position (Scott), 158 vocationally oriented schooling, 180;
deaf children:education of (see American Western aid programs and, 24346;
deaf education; British deaf education; World War Is effect, 190
deaf education); institutionalization deaf identity, xiiixvi, 154, 160, 161,
of, 190; killing under Nazi regime, 32, 23334, 244
15354 deaf marriage, 61, 15153, 180
Deaf community: development of, deaf-mute, 25
14345, 234; international Deaf Deaf pride, 23334
Index 293

deaf teachers, 43, 135, 13945, 153, discrimination: call for social change,
154, 199 25052; linguistic imperialism as,
de Carrin, Manuel Ramirez, 6869 124; normalization as form of, 52, 54;
de Castro, Pedro, 6869 overview of sociological history of,
Defoe, Daniel, 70, 9396, 100 5964; teachers, parents, educational
de Fontenay, Saboureux, 86, 1045 administrators as agents of, 60
De Grando, Joseph Marie, 11517, doctors. See Surgery
138, 150, 159 Down, John Langdon, 4546
deinstitutionalization, 5152. See also Downs syndrome, 46, 54
mainstreaming Dryden, John, 70
Democracy, birth of, 1011 Drysdale, Mr., 140, 141
Denmark, use of national sign language, duality of mind and body, 25, 38
223 dumb, meaning of, 48
Depression of 1890s, 186 Dundee Association for the Education of
Descartes, Ren, 1819, 2325, 3839, the Deaf and Dumb, 140, 142
71 Dundee school, 140
de Velasco, Luis, 76 Du Puget, Louis, 159, 196
dictionaries, 71, 238, 243, 24445
Dictionary of Southern African Signs for Ealing College, 198
Communicating with the Deaf, 245 education. See deaf education; schools
Diderot, Denis, 86 Education Act of 1870, 42, 217
difference: concept of, xiv (see also Education Act of 1902, 189
normalization); impediments to cele- Education Act of 1907, 189
bration of, 25051 Education Act of 1941, 214
Digby, Kenelm, 7576, 85 Education Act of 1944, 50, 191, 210
Disability Discrimination Act of 1995, Education Act of 1985, 218
221 Education Reform Act of 1989, 219
disabled: able-bodied versus, 7, 24950; egalitarianism, 10
agents of disabling process, 154; Eicholz committees, 18990, 2045
alliances with disability rights move- eighteenth century: Britain, 8788; deaf
ments, xiv; bureaucratization, 189; education, 91120; new consciousness
call for social change, 25052; cul- of language, 71
tural construction of concept, 9; Elementary Education Act of 1870, 167
cultural minorities, 235; deaf classi- Elliott, Richard, 152, 162, 17172, 188,
fied as, xxi, xiii, 5960, 87, 139, 195, 198
149, 178, 18791; defining, xiiixvi; English Board of Control, 47
disabling practices, xi, 4649, 5152, English language: acquisition in deaf
154, 160; feudal period, 67; govern- education, 186; as language of educa-
ment policies, 24950; grouping of tion, 189; literacy and, 12324. See
handicapped people, 149; immi- also Written language
grants refused entry into Australia, Erasmus, 15
248; isolation and marginalization of Essay towards a Real Character, 72
people deemed, 89, 2324; limits to ethno-nationalism and linguistic imperi-
change societys treatment of, 24950; alism, 23353
mainstreaming of, 5254, 21720; eugenics, 2934, 49, 15154; defined,
Nazi killing of, 3233, 49, 15354; 29; Nazism and elimination of con-
in non-Western cultures, xi; normal- genital disabilities, 3234; support by
ization, 4951; professionalism and medical diagnosis, 154
depersonalization of disabilities, euthanasia, 3234, 153
4346; sterilization of, 3233 evolutionism, 2629, 15054
294 index

Ewing, Alexander, 2056 oralism, 171, 18185; teacher training,


experimentation by surgeons, 41, 199
11314, 115, 130 Gallaudet, Thomas: Braidwoods and,
family life; effect of day schools, 13436; in Britain, 13336; Clerc
19192; evolution of, 89 and, 137; French method and,
Farrar, Abraham, 16468, 197, 208, 13536; Hartford school, 137; in
225, 229 Paris, 137; Sicard and, 135; Watson
Fay, Edward: marriage of deaf people, and, 135
views on, 15152; survey of methods Gallaudet College, 184, 199
by, 16162, 183, 25558; teaching Gallaudet University, 14243, 213
method favored by, 184 Galton, Francis, 2930, 47
Federation of Deaf People, 233 German oral method, 110, 123
feebleminded, 45, 47, 4849, 51 gestures, 7374, 7778, 87, 150. See
feminization of teaching, 170, 197, also sign language
198200 Gilby, F.W.G., 172, 17375, 193
Ferrers, Benjamin, 61 Gildart, John, 99
feudalism, 47, 10 Glendonald (Australia), 2067
fifteenth century, 1314, 6869 God, 1314 (see also religion);
fingerspelling: in American schools, 138; Descartes views on, 1819
in antiquity, 7475; Bakers views on, Goddard, Henry, 3132, 4748
163; in British schools, 157, 160, Goethe, Johann Wolfgang, 18
184, 211; Dalgarno as advocate for Goffman, Erving, 49
use of, 85; Watsons students using, Goodricke, John, 102, 103
129. See also manual alphabets; sign Grant, Brian, 185
language; Green, Charles, 1013, 110
Fitzroy Square College, 198 Green, Francis, 101, 110
Fludd, Robert, 16, 18 Greenaway, E. S., 212
Forester, Jane, 100 Gregory, Susan, 21819, 223
Forster, E.M., 251 Gwillym, William, 99
Foucault, Michael, x, xiv, 21, 106, 122
fourteenth century, 70 Haiselden, Harry, 3334
France: compared to Britain, 92, Hanson, Olaf, 18485
11213, 129, 144, 156; deaf educa- Harris, Jennifer, 209
tion, 41, 1049, 114; medical experi- Hayter, Theresa, 244
mentation in, 11314; natural sign hearing aids, 2001, 205
language in, 15562; oralism, 117, hearing loss, 5051, 175; technology to
159; Paris school for the deaf, overcome, 2002. See also Deaf and
11415, 117; sign language and deafness
search for perfect language in, 86. hereditary diseases, 3034
See also LEpe, Charles Michel de higher education of deaf, 14243
French Enlightenment, 67, 86, 1049 Hobbes, Thomas, 8, 20, 22, 2526, 39,
French method, 123 67
Friedlander, Henry, 3233 Hockenhull, F., 213
Friere, Paulo, 52 Hodges, John, 99
funding of schools in Britain, 18790 Hodgson, Kenneth, xii, 190
Holder, William, 78, 8284, 104
Galileo, Galilei, 1718 Homo oeconomicus, 250
Gallaudet, Edward Miner: combined Hooke, Robert, 21
method advocated by, 181, 18287; Howard, James, 166
Royal Commission and opposition to Hull, Susanna, 15051, 16970, 197, 198
Index 295

human rights: battle for rights of deaf Jones, James, 198


people, 23353; ideological focus of Jordan, I. King, 215
Western countries, 209; post war era,
4951; rise of movements for, 186 Kempe, John, 61
Hunter, William, 135, 139 Kepler, Johannes, 17
Kettlewell, A. W., 210
idiot, meaning of, 47, 48 Kingham, John, 196
Illich, Ivan, 52 Kinniburgh, Robert, 130, 134, 141,
immigrants: eugenics screening, 3132; 143, 156, 195
IQ testing of, 4748; refusal of entry Kinsey, Arthur, 171, 197
into Australia, 248 Kirkpatrick, John, 134, 13637, 159
imperialism: ; aid as, 24346; effect of,
9, 186; hereditary superiority of La Barre, Weston, 62
British and, 4445; as symbolic vio- Ladd, Paddy, 206, 208
lence, 23435. See also Linguistic Lane, Harlan, 22426
imperialism language: defining of humanity by use
inclusion. See mainstreaming of, 2425; evolution of, 70, 71, 150;
India, xi, 9, 124 key to achieving Descartes ideals,
individualism, 9, 10, 26 71; literacy and education of masses,
individuation of deaf people, 14877 12324; national languages, 7071,
individuation of religion, 15 23637; perfect language, search for,
Indonesia, xi, 244 7172; prior to formal education,
industrial development, 186 63; proficiency as education, 5051;
initialized signs, 62, 138, 15960 rationality and, 7072; system-
insanity. See madness atization of grammar and spelling,
institutionalization of deaf, 48, 190. 7071; universal language, search
See also Asylums for, 6690; Wilkins observations
integration. See mainstreaming about, 7375. See also national sign
intelligence quotient (IQ) testing, 4548, languages; natural sign languages;
5051 sign language
international Deaf community, 23536 Laos, 245
Invisible College, 19, 72. See also Royal Law for the Prevention of Offspring
Society of London with Hereditary Diseases (Germany),
Ireland, schools for deaf, 129, 144. 32
See also British deaf education Leibnitz, Gottfried Wilhelm, 92
Irish Sign Language, 212 LEpe, Charles Michel de: analysis of,
Irish system of Signed English, 212 155; Bbian and, 158; biography,
Itard, Jean-Marc, 41, 113, 115, 116, 1067; criticism by Baker, 163; De
131, 159 Grandos relationship to, 116; influ-
ence of, 10, 11011; methodological
Jacoby, Henry, 193 signs and, 63, 107, 159; myth about,
Jahoda, Gustav, 28 105, 1079; natural sign language
Jamet, Pierre, 212 and, 155, 156, 159; sign language
Jeffreys, Mary, 99 and, 1067, 150; two-handed alpha-
Jennings, Isabel, 197 bet, 63; universal language and, 86
Jews, persecution and extermination in leprosy, 28
Nazi Germany, 33, 153 Lettsom, John Coakley, 132
Jews Deaf and Dumb Home, 196 Lewis, M.M., 211
Johnson, Robert C., 222 The Limitations of the Pure Oral
Johnson, Samuel, 102, 103, 143, 185 Method (Abraham), 168
296 index

linguistic imperialism, 24649; ethno- Mary Hare Grammar School, 191, 203,
nationalism and, 23353; factor in 204, 210, 220
disabling deaf, 160 Mason, Henry Cox, 111, 125
linguistic mosaic of pre-Renaissance Massieu, Jean, 135, 144
world, 70 McKenzie, Francis Humberstone, 103
linguistic rights: deaf struggle for, medicalization of deafness, 11418
23840; international Deaf com- medical researchers, 11314, 115,
munity, 23536 13031. See also Surgery
linguistics, birth of, 72 Mnire, Prosper, 117
Linguistics of Visual English (LOVE), Mental Deficiency Bill, 190
213 mentally retarded or defective, 4547, 190
lipreading, 82, 85, 183. See also oralism methodological signs, 63, 107, 13739,
literacy and English language, 12324 155, 15760
Locke, John: De Grandos regard for, Middle Ages, 46, 28, 62, 6770
116; empiricist focus of, 39; equality Migration Act (Australia), 248
of individuals at birth, 2526, 92; Milan Congress of Teachers of the Deaf,
Invisible College member, 19; rational 16873; adoption of pure oralism and
society advocated by, 22; scientism rejection of sign languages, 154,
and, 20; semiotics, 72; view of 16873; British representatives at,
individual, 8 162; consequences of, 43, 154,
LOVE (Linguistics of Visual English), 16873, 18182; formal teacher train-
213 ing advocated by, 197; response to in
Lynas, Wendy, 215, 223 Britain and America, 179
Mills, C. Wright, x, 229
MacDonald, Annie, 49 Mirzoeff, Nicholas, 66, 155
madness, 36, 40, 44, 45, 114. See also missionaries. See religion
Bedlam monarchies, 10, 2021
Maginn, Francis, 127, 144, 181, 185, monastic sign languages, 5, 62, 68
214 Monboddo, Lord, 102
mainstreaming of deaf students, 5254, Montgomery, George, 225
21720 Moores, Donald F., 183
Mann, Edwin, 138 moral therapy movement, 4042, 148
manual alphabets, 6063; America, 63; Mundin, E. L., 210
Australia, use today, 81; Baker and, Murphy, Robert F., 31
163; Britain, use in, 62, 81;
Dalgarnos design of, 85; designed to National Association for the Oral
serve need of hearing, 62; history of, Instruction of the Deaf, 198
6063; Holder and, 83; linguistic National Deaf Childrens Society, 211
potential of, 76; one-handed alpha- National Deaf Mute College, 14243.
bets, 6263, 130; pictorial representa- See also Gallaudet University
tion of, 93, 95; Scott and, 158; two- nationalism and deaf struggle for lin-
handed alphabets, 6263, 12930; guistic rights, 23840
Wallis use of, 63, 81, 9395; Willkins national languages, 7071, 23637
alphabet on the hand and, 75. See national sign languages: Auslan, 227,
also fingerspelling; sign language 24043, 247; bilingualism in deaf
manual communication. See sign education, 22024; dictionaries, 238,
language 24445; education and, 246; ethno-
manualist heritage in America, 179 nationalism and linguistic imperial-
marriage: between deaf persons, 61, ism, 23353; regional variations, 242;
15153, 180; of disabled person World Federation of the Deaf recom-
prohibited, 3233 mendations, 24546
Index 297

National Training College for Teachers, bined method); Elliot and, 17172;
198 experience in class, 209; Fay survey,
National Union of the Deaf, 221 16162, 183, 25558; hollow triumph
native sign languages, 22024; Bali, xi, of, 2012; move to, 15051; Tarras
6. See also national sign languages; resolution, 154, 168; triumph of, 151;
natural sign languages; sign language in twentieth century, 203, 2089. See
natural alphabet of Holder, 82 also Milan Congress of Teachers of
naturalsignlanguages:inAmerica, the Deaf; pure oralism; speech
15562; Bbian and, 158; Braidwood The Origin of the Species (Darwin), 26
and, 103; in Britain, 6162, 127,
15562, 184; deaf education and, Paget, Richard, 209, 21112
15462; devaluation of, 161; disap- Paget-Gorman system, 212
pearing from education, 186; in Paracelsus, 1618, 21
France, 15562; history of, 6061; parlor pupils, 127, 129
lEpes views on, 86; in nineteenth partial hearing/deaf, 2035, 21718
century education, 129; rejection of, Pasch of Brandenburg, 68
59; two-handed alphabets, 6263, pathology: cultural construction of
12930; Watson and, 15657. See normality, 3738; deafness as patho-
also national sign languages; native logical syndrome, 149; diagnosis of,
sign languages; sign language 3840; normalization of, 4042
Nazi Germany, 29, 3234, 49, 15354 Patterson, Andrew, 195
Neale, A. S., 52 Pattison, Thomas, 141, 143
New Sign Language, 212 Peet, Harvey, 15960
Newton, Isaac, 18, 1920 Peet, Isaac Lewis, 138, 159
nineteenth century: confinement of deaf Pennant, Thomas, 102
children, 12147; deaf education in Pepys, Samuel, 61, 78
Britain, 12430; late-nineteenth cen- Pereire, Jacob Rodriguez, 86, 1045
tury, 14877, 179; teacher training in perfect language, search for, 6690, 150
schools for deaf children in Britain, Pernick, Martin S., 34
19396 Phillipson, Robert, xiii, 237
normality, ideology of, 37, 117, 187 pillaging of foreign countries, 9
normalization: deaf education to Plann, Susan, 69
achieve, 131, 187; as form of discrim- Ploetz, Alfred, 29
ination, 52, 54, 251; nineteenth Ponce de Len, Pedro, 6869
century desire for, 41; normalize, poor laws, 7
first appearance in dictionary, 37; Popham, Alexander, 81, 82, 93
therapy and human rights, 4951 Porter, Roy, 42
Porteus, Stanley D., 48
oblates, 5, 62 Porteus Maze Test, 48
Old Kent Road school, 125, 126, 141, positivism, 37
142, 152, 194 Postman, Neil, 52, 149
one-handed alphabets, 6263, 130, 160 poverty, 67
one-third clause, 188 Powers, Stephen, 21516, 223
Ong, Walter, 61, 63 Princess Elizabeth kindergarten
On the Marriage and Intermarriage of (Australia), 207
the Deaf and Dumb (Buxton), 152 professionalism, 4346, 88, 113,
oralism, xii, 14877, 203; alienation 14849, 178
process and, 186; Australia, 2067; Protestant Reformation, 15
Ballestra and, 166; Britain, 18182, psychiatry, 45
192, 210; cochlear implants and, Public Interest Criteria of Migration
22829; combined method (see com- Act (Australia), 24849
298 index

public schools. See schools deaf education, 22024; in Britain (see


pure oralism, 17375; in Britain, 16268; British deaf education); bureaucracy
opposition to, 185; Pagets system and, 4243; as clinic, 2057; clinical
opposed by, 212; Royal Commission gaze and, 205; compulsory education,
report on, 18082. See also oralism 42, 50, 179, 189, 191; conferences for
principals, 188; disabling process of
racial identity, 28 formal education, 4649; Ewing-style,
Rannut, M., 237 206; French school for deaf and poor,
religion: catechism, teaching of, 126; 105; funding in Britain, 18788; mis-
Churches for the Deaf, 145; history sionary orientation in Britain, 130; for
of Western religion, 5, 6, 1316; partially deaf, 204; public education,
medieval attitudes toward deaf people 12124; segregated, 4849, 221;
and sign language, 6769; missionary vocationally oriented, 180. See also
orientation of deaf education,13032; deaf education; mainstreaming of deaf
sign language used in, 173, 175; students; teacher training; specific
teachers of deaf also serving as school by name
missionaries, 196 science, 1335; battle of and emergence
residential schools, 19192 of new philosophy, 1619; evolution
Rhind, Charles, 194, 196 of ideology from religion to, 1416;
The Right to be Well Born or Horse mechanistic science, 18; normality
Breeding in Relation to Eugenics defined by, 3738; ordering of nature
(Stokes), 30 and humanity by, 2229; penetration
Rochester Method, 212 of daily life by, 2122. See also eugen-
Rose, Frederick John, 14445 ics; evolutionism
Rothschild, Baroness Mayer de, 162, scientism, 1617
196 Scotland, deaf schools in, 14041. See
Royal Commission on the Conditions also British deaf education
and Education of the Deaf and Blind, Scott, W.R., 158, 163
18082, 185, 197 Scriptures, 13. See also religion
Royal School for the Deaf at Margate, SEE 2 (Signing Exact English), 213
200 SEE 1 (Seeing Essential English), 212,
Royal Society of London, 18, 1921, 67, 213
72 See Hear (television program), 243
Ruffel, Ralph, 61 Seeing Essential English (SEE 1), 212,
213
St. Augustine, 6768 segregation; of the deaf, views of
St. Jerome, 5, 62 British philosophers, 78; of defec-
St. John Ackers, B., 162, 172, 175, 197, tives, 4849; mainstreaming and
198 retreat from, 5154; schools, 4849,
St. John of Beverley, 68, 69 221; special education, 4849
St. Lukes, 36 Sguillon, Didier, 117
St. Marks Ophthalmic Hospital, 132 seventeenth century in Britain, 6690
St. Marys School for the Deaf, 212 Sheriff, Alexander, 100
School for the Deaf in Derby, England, Sheriff, Charles, 1001, 103
222 Sicard, Roch-Ambroise-Cucurron:
schools: admission of children with Gallaudet meeting with, 135; head of
multiple disabilities, 51; alternative, Paris school and successor of lEpe,
20910; in America (see American 113; relationship to De Grando, 116;
deaf education); audiometers, 201; in sign language, views on, 150, 156;
Australia, 46, 2067; bilingualism in Watson and, 157
Index 299

sideshows, 28 South African Sign Language, 245


Signed Danish, 213 Spain, 6869, 76
Signed English, 20914 special education, 4849, 149. See also
Signed German, 213 segregation
Signed Indonesian (SIBI), 213 species, ordering of, 22
Signed Swedish, 213 speech, 7778, 210, 212; British schools
Signed Thai, 213 promoting in nineteenth century,
Signing Exact English (SEE 2), 213 12527; combined oral-manual
sign language: ancient and medieval atti- approach, 18384 (see also combined
tudes toward, 6769; Bakers use of, method); Holders views on, 8284;
100; Bali, xi, 6; ban on use of, 209 parlor pupils education focused on,
(see also pure oralism); Braidwoods 127, 129; versus signs and gestures,
pupils using, 1023; in British 87; sound, nature of, 75; Wallis views
schools, 184. See also British deaf on deaf and possibility of speaking,
education; British system, 15659; 79, 81; Wilkins views on deaf and
Columbia Institution and, 184; com- possibility of speaking, 7374. See
bined method, 18287 (see also also Milan Congress of Teachers of
combined method); De Grandos the Deaf; oralism
view of, 11516; devaluation of, speech therapy, 205, 206
15051; dictionaries, 238, 24445; sports, 45
education of deaf people and, 7984 Spring Hill School, 190, 203
(see also deaf education); Fay survey Stainer, William, 162, 167, 17173,
of methods, 16162, 183, 25558; in 195, 198, 217
France, 86; Gallaudet University sys- Stanford Revision of the Binet Scale, 48
tem, 213; historical overview, 6064; Steiner, Rudolph, 18
lEpe and, 1067; monastic, 5, 62, sterilization, 3233, 153
68; non-Western, 61; oath as witness Stewart, Dugald, 103
using, 61; oralism versus, 17375, Stokes, W.E.D., 30
18287; pressure to reconsider use, surgery, 41, 11314, 13031, 22429
211; religion and, 173, 175; St. Au- survival of the fittest, 29
gustine and, 6768; Scott and, 158, Svirsky, Mario, 227
163; seventeenth century in Britain, Sweden: education policy in, 22122;
6690; Signed English, 20914; national sign language in, 223
signed international languages, 213; Swift, Jonathan, 71
sixteenth century, 6162; South symbolic violence: imperialism and,
African Sign Language, 245; speech 23435; of Total Communication,
used with, 212; Victorian societys 185
views on, 28; Watson and, 15657;
World Federation of Deaf resolution, Tarra, abb, 154, 168
23536. See also fingerspelling; man- The Teacher of the Deaf (British jour-
ual alphabets; methodological signs; nal), 198, 21011
national sign languages; native sign teacher training: in America, 199; ap-
languages; natural sign languages prenticeship system, 19496; in Aus-
Silberman, Bernard S., 19394 tralia, 178, 206; in Britain, 12728,
Simon, Thodore, 47 19394; bureaucracy and, 4243; cer-
Skutnabb-Kangas, Tove, xii, xiii, 237 tification of teachers of the deaf, 179,
Smith, Samuel, 196 19698; feminization of teaching. See
Social Darwinism, 27 Women; fluent linguistic skills
Society for Racial Hygiene, 29 required, 222; Gallaudet and, 199;
sound. See speech method, 13435; professionalism and,
300 index

teacher training (continued) sentation of manual alphabet, 93, 95;


4346, 14849; signed forms taught Royal Society and, 1920; sign lan-
to, 223; speech therapy and use of guage and, 63, 7984; speech taught
acoustic equipment, 205. See also deaf to deaf, views on, 79, 81
education; deaf teachers Wampler, Dennis W., 213
technology to counter hearing loss, 2002 Warnock, Mary, 50
Technopoly, 149 Wars in twentieth century and Britain,
Tellings, Agnes, 22526 18788, 190
Terman, Lewis Madison, 48 Watson, Alexander, 194
Thai Sign language, 24445 Watson, James, 194
The Thai Sign Language Dictionary, Watson, Joseph: apprenticeship system
24445 used by, 194; Braidwoods relation-
Thomas, Keith, 23 ship with, 1003; deaf teachers and,
Thorton, Henry, 111 139; Gallaudet and, 135; sign lan-
Thoutenhoofd, Ernst, 223 guage and, 15657; teacher at school
Tillinghast, David, 144 for deaf and poor, 112; teaching
Tillinghast, Joseph, 144, 185 methods of, 12729, 134
Toms, Jennifer, 207 Watson, Samuel, 143
Total Communication, 185, 21417, 223 Watson, Thomas, 194
Tower of Babel, 71 Weald in Kent, 6
Townsend, John, 11112, 125, 139 Western aid programs, effect of, 24346
Training College for Teachers of the Whaley, Daniel, 79, 81
Deaf, 197 wild boy of Aveyron, 24, 41, 115
Tuileries, 21 Wilde, William, 132
Turner, Joseph, 141 Wilkins, John, 19, 67, 7275, 78, 84
twentieth century: deaf education in, Winzer, Margret, 149
178202; denial of deafness in, 20332 wolf children, 24. See also wild boy of
two-handed alphabets, 6263, 12930 Aveyron
Tylor, Edward, 150 women: family as realm of, 9; feminiza-
tion of teaching, 170, 197, 198200;
Ulrich of Cluny, 5 first female teacher at Old Kent
uniformity of communication, 8 School, 141; trainees for oral method
United Kingdom. See Britain in America, 197
United States. See American deaf Woodward, James C., 215
education World Deaf Games, 238
universal language, search for, 6690 World Federation of the Deaf, 235, 238,
Unlocking the Curriculum, 220 244, 24546
Wren, Christopher, 19
Van Praagh, William, 196 written language: Bakers emphasis on,
Venerable Bede, 68 163; Braidwoods views on, 101;
Victorian School for Deaf Children in British emphasis on, 157, 160; in
Melbourne (VCDC), 207 France, 160; Holders views on, 83; in
Victorian society, 28 pre-Renaissance world, 70; Wallis
Vietnam, 245 teaching to deaf students, 8081;
Watson teaching to deaf students,
Wallis, John: Baker and, 100; British tra- 12829
dition of deaf education set by, 7984;
development of British sign system, York Retreat, 4041
156; manual alphabet used by, 63, 81,
9394; methods transformed by Baker zoos, development of, 23
and Braidwood, 104; pictorial repre-

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